The International Federation of Social Workers states, “Social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. Social work profession draws on theories of human development, social theory and social systems to analyze complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes.”
The present study was undertaken by the researcher to explore the learning opportunities and challenges faced by the social work learners of Nepal, within educational institutions as well as during field work.
Social work is a Profession which helps people to overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges such as poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability and mental illness. They help to prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, groups and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses and the problems of everyday life.
Social work not only focuses on theory, but it also gives importance to Practical aspects and life skills development. It not only gives the ideas to solve other’s problems but also one’s own problems. Social Work enables the trainee social worker to understand self, to develop capacity and use of self while dealing with clients.
Social Work is a young profession in Nepal. Social work as an academic discipline started in 1996 at St. Xavier’s College, Kathmandu. There is a broader scope of Social work in Nepal. Nepalese Social Workers can work in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior citizens’ centers, private practice, prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals, families, groups and communities in need.
Social work, however, is a misunderstood profession in Nepal. It is known and taught as a discipline rather than profession. The Government has taken it as a discipline and most of the people do not know about social work in Nepal. They think that social work is similar to Sociology. The practitioners are not able to unite to form a National Level Council or Association of Social Work in Nepal. There is no clarity regarding who are Social workers and who are not.
Social Work Theory in Nepal and Credibility of the Profession
Theories are taught in class room and trainees practice those theories in field work. Theory helps to enhance knowledge to a great extent and field work helps to develop skills to a great extent. Social work is a subject which mainly focuses on theoretical and practical aspects equally. It helps to build networking with other professionals and enhance social interaction. There are many disciplines in Nepal; but now-a- days students are attracted to social work field because of such unique characteristics of social work education.
Till yesterday, students first studied the subjects, they wrote the exam and when they tried to apply those theories they failed to implement those theories in practice. But social work provides opportunity to concurrently use the theory in Practice. Most of the Nepalese Colleges and universities have four days of theory classes (including Individual conference, Group conference) and two days of field work. Generally, the social work students have been placed in different types of agencies, communities, VDC office, Government, Non-government, and International Non-Government Agencies to practice the theories which they studied in class room. It gives knowledge as well as skill to work with individuals, group, community, administration, research and social action if needed. Students practice these six methods of social work.
Social work is an imported profession from western countries. Western ideology and philosophy regarding social work always dominate over the developing countries’ ideology and philosophy. Desai (2002), states that the Indian society is structured by families and communities, where as the Western social work approach is individualistic. The Indian religions emphasize duties whereas the western liberalism emphasizes freedom as the goal. While the Indian ideologies are holistic and wisdom oriented, the American professional ideologies are analytical and scientific”.
Nepal and India are neighboring countries and the social and religious structure of Nepal and India are somewhat similar. Whatever Desai has stated about social work practice in India is also applicable in Nepal. There are also differences between Nepali society and western society. If the society is different, culture is different, situation is different, it is sure that the principles, theory, and practice pattern should be different. Social Work should focus on indigenous context. If you teach a child “A” for “Aero plane” it is difficult to understand for those children who never got a chance to see the plane; but if you teach “A” for “Ant”, it is easy to understand because we are familiar with ants. Social Work trainees face the same kind of difficulty in field work. Nepalese Social work trainees tried to practice western theories, methods, and principles which are difficult to apply in Nepalese context.
Social work is thus an imported as well as a developing profession. To build credibility of this profession, a practitioner should focus on indigenous values, principles, methods which are suitable in Nepalese context.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOCIAL WORK TRAINEES IN FIELD WORK AND CLASS ROOM
Social Work is a professional course which provides both classroom activities and field activities. Social Work provides activities which helps to understand the real problems and the real issues of society. Classroom learning helps to understand the theoretical part of society and the field work helps to understand the strengths and challenges of applying the theory into practice.
However, Social Work students need even more facilities of learning such as real life based theories, assignments, group discussions, presentations, seminars, conferences and other extra-curricular activities.
CHALLENGES FOR SOCIAL WORK TRAINEES IN FIELD WORK AND CLASSROOM
Social Work is a developing profession in Nepal. Even though it is an internationally recognized profession it has not yet established itself as a Profession in Nepal. Efforts are being made to gain reorganization of social work as a profession in Nepal. Doctors, engineers, and other professions are well known in Nepal but not social work. Some social workers themselves believe that Social work is just a discipline.
Highly trained and experienced professionals should teach the students to get qualitative education. Only those who have earned social work degrees at the bachelor’s, masters’ or doctoral levels, and completed a minimum number of hours in supervised fieldwork, are “professional social workers.” But unfortunately, there are hardly any lecturers who completed their doctoral degree in Social Work. There is lack of experienced lecturers and supervisors.
Social work trainees sent to I/N/GOs are treated as volunteers rather than social Work trainees. They do not get proper guidance and instruction. Even the colleges are not giving importance to their skills development and their overall development. One of the major challenges of Social work learners may be that there is no deep root of social work in Nepal. Other challenges maybe lack of sufficient materials related to Nepalese context and division among social work students, educators and professionals and lack of interest to initiate collective forum to promote social work practice.
Nepal is a developing country and education in social work is still very young. Nepalese social workers are the change agents of Nepalese society. Educational institution is a place from where social workers gain knowledge and skills to transform the society. It is important to know the challenges faced as well as opportunities accessed by social work learners in the academic and field sectors.
Social work educational institutions should be equipped with the basic necessities of education such as qualified professors, experienced field supervisors and sufficient books, as well as opportunities for skills lab, seminars, conferences, and so on. The researcher observed that in Nepal, many students are not able to sufficiently access these resources although they do have a limited opportunity for network building, integration of theory and practice, problem identification and engagement in problem solving process. All of them are not getting opportunity to be trained by experienced social workers.
So far no research studies have been undertaken on social work trainees in Nepal. Hence the researcher wanted to explore the opportunities and challenges faced by social work trainees of Nepal.
Opportunities and challenges of social work trainees in Nepal
Most of the social work trainees join social work to join and work in I/NGOs rather than working for the community or their own society.
Still in social work field the lecturers are following the same traditional methods like one sided lecturer than learner’s participation. The main cause of this might be either teacher thought the learners do not have knowledge or learners do not want to participate in class actively.
Majority of the social work trainees are satisfied with the classroom learning process and they believe that they are getting space to share their perspectives and they also know the subject matter. The learners who are not satisfied with classroom activities because they experienced note based lecturer and they also felt less experience lecture do not able to give good quality of education and/or knowledge. Some of them also felt that they are not getting suitable environment to study in classroom and/or at institute.
Group discussion helps to engage social work trainees to think and motivate them to connect with the content. It also gives equal opportunity to all social work learners to share their ideas and views regarding subject matter and most important, it improve the speaking skill to social work trainees. large majority of the social work learners are satisfied with group discussion in classroom and they believe that it helps to gain knowledge, to know various perspectives and it also helps to discover new things and very few learners do not have enough group discussion in classroom.
Classroom presentation improves and provide alternate method of learning in the classroom besides lectures (Habar 2008). Social work learners can utilize their critical thinking. It also enhance bonding and helping nature among friends. A large majority social work learners believe that classroom presentation helps to develop skills, to build confidence, and it also enhance knowledge whereas the learners who are not satisfied with classroom presentation according to them they are not getting opportunities for classroom presentation.
Program participation, group discussion, assignments and class presentation helps social work learners to develop skills. Field work and exposure camp, event organization, active participation of social work learners and following the value and norms of social work helps to develop social work values.
Fulltime lecturers are able to give enough time to their students but most of the social work institutes have very less number of social work lecturers. A library is a collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. But unfortunately very few social work institutes have enough books in library. Some of the institute does not have even a single social work reference book. If social work learners are not able to access the opportunity to get reference books then they are totally depends on class notes and even the lectures are not able to get enough resources and knowledge lacking the resources.
· A relative majority of 36 per cent of the respondents say that all the lecturers are fulltime lecturers but 32 per cent respondents also reveal that there is not even a single fulltime lecturer in social work department.
· With regard to educational process the levels of satisfaction of learners of social work in Nepal are observed as follows:
Ø The learners of social work in Nepal have a good level of satisfaction with regard to use of participatory teaching methods as a vast majority of 68 per cent of them have rated it good/excellent.
Ø An average level of satisfaction is observed with regard to lecturers, and co-curricular activities as 52 per cent of them have rated lecturers as good/excellent, and 54 per cent of them consider co-curricular activities as good/excellent.
Ø A poor level of satisfaction is observed with regard to library as only 40 per cent of them rated it excellent/good and 32 per cent of them rated it poor/very poor.
· With regard to professional involvement the learners have diverse opinions as given below:
Ø A majority of 54 per cent and 56 per cent of respondents consider interaction with practitioners and network with NGOs as good/excellent respectively.
Ø A relative majority of 44 per cent of the respondents have rated involvement in social issues as poor. A majority of 54 percent of the respondents also show their dissatisfaction with Network with Associations of Social Work as poor. With regard to social involvement networking with Government organizations a vast majority of 64 per cent respondent rated it as poor/very poor.
· The main challenges faced by social work trainees are a) less resources and not suitable environment (60 per cent), b) less students participation (48 per cent), c) difficult to understand (36 per cent).
· A large majority of 92 per cent of the respondents are placed in Non governmental agencies for field work.
· All of the respondents are involved in administrative work. A large majority of 82 per cent of the respondents are practicing social group work regularly in field work and a vast majority of 60 per cent respondents are also practicing social case work regularly during field work.
· A majority of 56 per cent of the respondents rated excellent/good for the individual conferences but 32 per cent of the respondents also rated it as very poor. A relative majority of 36 per cent of the BSW respondents rated individual conference as excellent whereas a relative majority of 45 per cent BASW respondents rated individual conference as very poor.
· A relative majority of 48 per cent of the respondents rated group conference as excellent/good whereas 46 per cent of the respondents also rated it as very poor/poor. A relative majority of 54 per cent of the BASW respondents rated very poor for the group conference and a relative majority of 36 per cent BSW respondents rated it as excellent.
· A relative majority of 46 per cent of the respondents rated excellent/good for the professional guidance from field supervisor and a majority of 56 per cent of the respondents rated excellent/good to the professional guidance from faculty supervisor.
· A vast majority of 60 per cent of the respondents rated good/excellent for the opportunities to practice social work methods during field work.
· A vast majority of 74 per cent of the respondents rated for opportunities to program planning and implementation as good/excellent indicating the possibility for faulty identification of social workers as program organizers than professionals.
· The main challenges faced by social work trainees during field are a) not recognized as social work trainees (34 per cent), b) difficult to implement ideas (28 per cent), and c) not clear what to do (20 per cent).
· The main opportunities gained during field work are a) enhancing knowledge about administration work, b) platform to show creativity.
· A majority of 52 per cent of the respondents do not consider NGOs employees as social workers.
· A majority of 58 per cent of the respondents considered social work degree holders as social workers.
· A majority of 56 per cent of the respondents consider volunteers for social service as a social workers.
· A relative majority of 48 per cent respondents do not consider politicians as social worker.
· A vast majority of 60 per cent respondents do not agree that social work is a profession.
· The main reason behind social work is not a profession are a) Lack of recognition (70 per cent), b) lack of social work knowledge (30 per cent).
· As per the opinion of majority of the respondents the most important social work methods in Nepal are social case work (76 per cent: 1st and 2nd ranks), social work research(50 per cent: 1st and 2nd ranks), social group work (28 per cent: 1st and 2nd Ranks), social welfare administration (24 per cent: 1st and 2nd ranks), Community organization (20 per cent: 1st and 2ndranks) and social action (4 per cent: 1st and 2nd ranks) respectively.
· The uniqueness of social work is: a) the role in community itself is unique (46 per cent), action against social issues and problems (42 per cent), social workers work by heart (34 per cent).
· The process of curriculum development in social work needs to be strengthened through dialogues and exchange of ideas, experiences, best practices in knowledge and skills development as well as field work practice with stakeholders in social work profession such as other national and international institutions, NGOs, employers and alumni. Practical papers which help to enhance knowledge about social work and develop attitudes required for social work practice must be included. Learner centered approached must be applied in this process.
· The syllabus should be designed and modified according to the time and need so that the content is applicable in their own and others’ life as well as easy to understand.
· One sided teaching method which is also known as traditional teaching method is no more worthy for the development of learners and especially in social work field. Participatory teaching methodologies such as group discussion, learners’ presentations, exposure camps, and experiential learning through field work, skills labs, organizing seminars and conferences and participation in programs must be facilitated, strengthened and focused.
· Presentations help the learners to develop self confidence, self belief. Presentations may be in classroom and/or outside the classrooms. The learners should get opportunity to present papers on seminars and conferences.
· Social work institutes should be able to organize university level, local, regional, national and international seminars and conferences in every academic year. Through seminars and conferences learners also get opportunity to develop professional networking, s/he also can update ideas regarding various issues, learn new things as well as creativity and enhances the prestige of institutes.
· Assignments which bring forth the original thinking, creativity and updated knowledge of the learners must be framed which will enhance learners motivations and interest in undertaking assignments. Since assignments have high potential for personal and professional growth of learners they must be compulsorily in corporate in the assessment process. Assignments not only help to gain knowledge, but also improve the competencies among the students and enhance personal confidence, and punctuality.
· Social work is a profession which helps to build an attitude which enable social work learners to understand the society, their positive as well as negative aspects, problems, probability solution and others. So the learners themselves as well as the institutes and lecturers should motivate and guide them to build social work attitude.
· Library is the most important source and hub of knowledge. Sufficient books, reference books, social work related magazines, journals, researches, newspapers and e-resources must be available in the library. Social Work institutes must endeavor to improve their library resources and should motivate learners to visit the library frequently.
· Practitioners can explain the insights they have gained through experience rather than from books, particularly when they are applying the methods. It is essential for social work institutes to hire or request the practitioners and let them share their experience and challenges as well as the opportunities they are getting as a professionals.
· The world is not stable. Gone are the days of just ‘chalk and talk’. Institutes must enable the lecturers to use multi-sensory devices for teaching by improving on physical as well as technical infrastructure and equipment in classrooms.
· Co-curricular activities such as exposure visits, organizing and participating in workshops, seminars and conferences must be conducted every year and strengthened.
· Since social work education has completed two decades of existence in Nepal, it is high time that at least one local/regional/national association for social workers should be formed or at least build networking with international associations of social work.
· Networking with government agencies are not satisfactory level among the social work colleges in Nepal although they have good network with non government agencies. Special focus must be given to build networking with government agencies.
· Joint efforts of the learners, lecturers as well as institutions are required to address the issues faced by the learners in field work as well as class room.
· Social work training and educational institutions in Nepal must undertake concerted efforts to explore more areas of social work interventions for enhancing the quality of field work training. Joint workshops could be organized by these institutions in collaboration with potential field work agencies such as educational settings, governmental agencies, correctional settings, health settings and industrial settings and so on as the opportunities accessed by global social work professionals.
· The entire social work learners are part of administrative work but no one is getting chance to involve in the process of planning. Concurrent field work is a challenge for the trainees as well as NGOs. NGOs cannot plan or give assignments or work for the trainee and trainees too are not able to follow up or make concerted interventions in the field. So there should be a kind of continuous field work system, that is, block field placement.
· Most of the students are regularly practicing Social case work and social group work. Nepal is a developing country where most of the people are facing several social issues like poverty, early child marriage and dowry issues which can only be solved through community organization but institutes as well as agencies are not providing training for community organization. Thus, it is important to focus on community organization method and social action for the overall development of community and nation.
· Nepal just passed the second mass movement again monarchy and most of the Nepalese get opportunity to feel it. After the movement almost every week Nepalese citizens faces the political strikes in the name of backward, deprived and the name of community. Till now whatever movement took place that was mainly politically motivated, but not for social issues. Social work trainees are not getting opportunity to fight against social evils through Social action method which is one of the secondary methods of social work. So, there is a need of social action from social workers rather than politicians.
· Efforts must be made to provide quality guidance to social work trainees by modifying individual conference as well as group conference. At any cost individual conference should not be neglected since this provides individual attention and guidance to the trainees.
· BSW learners are satisfied with the professional guidance from field supervisor than BASW. So there is a need of improvement on the part of the BASW institutes, supervisors and coordinators with regard to professional guidance.
· Through associations of social work, social workers’ identity must be established without any ambiguity on who is a social worker as social workers are identified with volunteers, NGO employees and politicians. There should be the clear definition of social worker in Nepalese context. The fact that opportunities for practice of social work methods were found to be not so satisfactory and opportunities for program planning and implementation highly satisfactory, points to the danger of faulty identification of social workers as experts in organizing programs or as volunteers rather than professionals who can handle social work methods.
· Social work with its theory and practicum, itself is an imported profession in Nepal. Till now only very few literatures related to social work Nepal are available. Efforts must be made to publish materials, books, journals, research particularly on Nepal based social work methods and principles.
· Still people of Nepal are not aware of social work. Social work is always called as sociology. There is a need that social worker should make them experience that social work is a separate profession and it works differently from other disciplines and professions.
Education is a process of bringing forth the potentials within a learner, a process of discovering the powers within and to utilize them for a greater cause. An effective educational program is thus not in the banking system of information overload. It is the development of a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes as the theoretical framework of this study points towards in the introductory chapter. Social work education, as internationally practiced, does have these three components. The present study has highlighted the opportunities and challenges for social work trainees of Nepal from the perspective of development of knowledge, skill and attitude.
The study has unfolded the need for revising the syllabus, giving more emphasis on skill development of social work trainees as well as the need to explore more areas of fieldwork interventions than voluntary organizations. Creative and participatory teaching methodologies are required to bring forth the innate potentials of the learners. Social action and community organization which are the major secondary methods of social work should be practiced during field work. The educational institutions, NGOs and field and faculty supervisors should motivate social work trainees to practice these methods. There is an urgent need of formation of national association of social work in Nepal which can become a platform to work towards enhancement of credibility of social work profession. Social work institutions should organize regular orientation programs for social work learners, periodic faculty development programs, agency meets, conferences and seminars, in order to upgrade the quality of learners as well as institutions.
Social Work, with its focus on enhancing the total well being of individuals, groups and communities, is a noble profession that can contribute towards the inclusive and sustainable development of nations at the local level, which in turn can promote a just and sustainable international community. Governments and international agencies must recognise and include social work professionals in every sphere of developmental administration and human resource management and support the endeavours of voluntary organisations as well as educational institutions in moulding committed and competent change agents.
About the Author
Amit Kumar Yadav
Amit is a bonafide person, who developed this at School of Social work, Roshni Nilaya, Mangalore, as partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of Master of Social work.
Mr. Yadav is the first academic Social worker of Province 2, Nepal. He was appointed as first lecturer of social work in Nava Kshitiz College, Bardibas. Besides that, he is a practitioner of social work, who works for the betterment of Marginalized Group of Nepal. He has been appointed as Monitoring, Evaluation and Documentation Officer in a National Level NGO. In addition, he currently runs a blog enhancing and contributing to knowledge base of professional Social work in Nepal via his blog. www.swnepalblogspot.com