A long way to go
The social work education which started in India in 1936 with the establishment of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, has marked eight decades of Professional social work education in 2016.
Despite such a long tenure, Social Work education in India is still struggling for professional status. In the early phase of social work education in India, the syllabus was framed on the curricula of American schools of social work.
The Indian academicians have made very little attempt to develop an Indianised syllabus for both theory and practical for Social Work education. In the last eight decades attempts were made to adopt western syllabus in the Indian context.
Social Work education in India has neglected the societal reform approach undertaken by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Baba Saheb Ambedkar and others. On the other hand, it is focused on the individual approach of the western model of social work.
The famous rural reconstruction experiment models, as well as the core ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, S.K. Dey, Mahatma Gandhi, and Maharaja Sayaji were not given proper recognition.
Of course, the University Grants Commission had constituted two review committees in 1960 and 1975 for the promotion, maintenance of the standards, co-ordination, training, research, and practice and has recommended various suggestions which are not being effectively and uniformly implemented in Indian higher education system.
There are more than 350 social work institutions in India (the exact official figure is not available). At the same time it is very surprising that some of the social work institutions have commercialised social work education, are self-financed and charge a lot of money for admission - which is against the very basic goal of social work education.
The non-existence of National Council for Social Work Education and existence of very weak professional associations like Association of Schools of Social Work in India and National Association of Professional Social Workers in India, dominance of few persons, has further hampered the professionalisation of social work education in our country.
The professional social work associations has never attempted for a nationwide movement for the establishment of social work council in India.The Indian Social Work academicians have not been able to develop sufficient literature. Field work and practicum are important components and are compulsory in each semester of the course.
However, very few books have been written on this subject by Indian academicians. It is very encouraging that a number of Universities have started offering social work education at the Bachelors and Masters Level through open and distance learning mode, although it is being opposed by several social work educators.
It is also very disappointing to know that there is so far no standard code of ethics of social work profession framed and evolved, except the Maharashtra Association of social work educators. Very recently the school of social work of Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi has prepared a code of ethics for social workers in India. In some of the Universities, the social work courses started as a constituent course of Sociology Department as well as Department of Adult Education.
Most of the social work institutions in India are located in Urban areas and the students field work training have an urban orientation which hasvery little relevance for rural India where nearly three fourth of the Indian population resides.
The admission for Bachelors programme in Social Work in Delhi University was through entrance examination followed by an interview, which is a pattern in almost every institution. But very recently, the Delhi University started BSW admissions through cut-offs as applicable to other general disciplines.
The field work practicum enhances communication skills and problem-solving skills of the students to handle the problems of the individuals, families, groups and communities.
It is very disappointing to note that field work practice has become a kind of ritual. The unscientific and unplanned field work placement of the students, inadequate supervision, lack of seriousness in correction of reports, has hampered a lot in developing the skills and competencies of social work students and has inevitably lead to unprofessionalisation in this field.
In reality, field work supervision/individual conferences, which is an essential component in social work education is merely practiced as a ritual in various schools/colleges owing to lack of infrastrural facilities and over-burden of teachers owing to various reasons.
So in order to professionalise social work education, quality teachers should be appointed by a central body. Social work education should also be controlled and managed by a National Social Work Council.
(Dr. Bishnu Mohan Dash is Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, University of Delhi. Views expressed are personal.)