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The Social Work System Abroad
The certification system for this special profession includes three methods:
1. 'Certification' – the authorities of examination, professional associations, or government agencies examine the professional knowledge and skills of a candidate. Once qualified, they will be awarded a certificate and allowed to use a professional 'title'.
2. 'Licence' – granted by the government through application. With such a licence, one can provide professional services. The government has the right to enforce a ban on discovering a case of non-licenced professional service or business activity.
3. 'Registration' – which can be further divided into 'Voluntary Registration' and 'Obligatory Registration'. Practitioners who are qualified with certain basic requirements can register in a designated institute. Among these three methods, the one with the strictest rules is 'Certification', followed by 'Licence' and 'Registration'. Therefore, most professional social workers preferred 'Certification' or 'Licence' methods to ensure their professional status (Li, 1996: 25).
Looking at the professional social worker certification system of various countries, it can be seen that every country has its own rules . The United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea use the examination system, while the United Kingdom and Hong Kong use the registration system and different countries have different examination systems. For example, in the United States, there is a professional organization in charge of the examination while the government is responsible for awarding a licence; however, in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the government is in charge of both examination and licence (Lin and Shen, 2008).
The General Social Care Council (GSCC), founded in 2001, is responsible for the candidature, registration and application, in-service training, and advanced certification of professional social workers in the United Kingdom.9 Regarding candidature, applicants must provide certificates of their bachelor or master's degree from social work–related faculties. Normally, high school students in the UK who wish to enroll in a social work–related faculty have to obtain credits from at least five AP subjects (English and math included), as well as for thirdlevel subjects in vocational school such as hygiene, social service subjects, and so on. Those faculties the students enroll in must be approved by the GSCC, so that students can register as social workers in the future. Currently, there are more than 40 universities with approved social work faculties. The duration of study at the undergraduate level is two years, and students must look for internships in a registered Social Care Institute, working full-time for at least 200 days. Students whose major at the undergraduate level is not social work have to complete a twoyear postgraduate course to become qualified as a social worker.
Once all of the above-mentioned documents are presented, one can registers as a qualified social worker. The GSCC provide social work practice principles and inservice training courses for renewing a licence, which is required every three years. In Hong Kong, the registration system is under the governance of the Hong Kong Social Welfare Personnel Registration Council and the Social Workers Registration Board. The following two types of candidate are qualified for
1. Holders of a certificate or diploma approved by the Social Workers Registration Board. Generally, this includes certificates or diplomas from the social work–related faculties of the six Universities and Colleges in Hong Kong, or those in foreign countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.
8 Information source: Cheng Li Chen (2008), 'The Dialogue between the Profession Development of Social Work and Professional Social Worker Certificate', National Elite Quarterly, Vol. 4. 2. Those who are currently social workers without a certificate or diploma from a related faculty: To register candidates must study and pass the five essential subjects in a related faculty and complete an internship of at least 800 working hours (for undergraduate course, 700 hours for diploma course) and obey the practice principles and guidelines specified by the Social Workers Registration Board.
There is no regulation over continuing education, since the system in Hong Kong values the approved diploma/certificate the most; once a social worker succeeds in registration, they can extend this status by following the laws on regulations and fees.
In the United States10 there exists the 'double-track'11 social worker qualification exam system, where the licence is authorized by each state government and the certificate is approved by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). All independent professional social workers must obtain membership in the NASW, which provides 10 certificates in 10 specialized fields to differentiate closely related social work fields (Lin and Shen, 2008). Social worker certification within government agencies is led by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), which was reformed in 1999. The examination designed by the ASWB covers four degrees. Despite certain special rules required by some state governments, the regulations on candidature in these four degrees are as follows: For bachelor's and master's levels, social workers must hold a bachelor's or master's certificate approved by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE); advanced generalists must obtain a master's degree followed by two years of work experience; clinical social workers must obtain a master's degree followed by two years of clinical work experience. The CSWE developed the Standards for Accreditation and Curriculum Policy Statement in 1973 to examine the faculties who apply for approval and determine whether their taught course conforms to the professional knowledge and skills a practitioner would need. Regarding the application procedure, applicants must prepare all documents needed along with a candidature examination form; after ASWB approval, the candidates are able to attend the exam. A multiple-choice test is applied, focusing on both theoretical and practical principles that a practitioner would frequently come across and real life cases are sometimes employed as questions in such tests. There are 170 questions in total with a difficulty corresponding to each different type of exam – 20 out of the 170 questions are not scored, serving as effectiveness testing. Those who pass this exam can be awarded a licence. The ASWB is also responsible for continuing education and verification of certificate renewal, yet the renewal regulation varies by state. Once a social worker obtains the certificate, they can register to become a
9 Information source: Cheng Li Chen (2080) 'The Dialogue between the Profession Development of Social Work and Professional Social Worker Certificate', National Elite Quarterly, Vol. 4.
10 To become a practitioner one must obtain a license issued by the state. The NASW
certificate cannot replace such license as a substitute. member of the ASWB and periodically receive information on professional skills, continuing education, licence renewal, and so on.
In Japan, there are multiple ways to become a professional social worker, even
without the requirement on education background:
1. Students in a short-term program, as well as the twoor three-year course at social welfare scheme-related universities or colleges, after completing 13 subjects and 35 units (non-credit internship included) as designated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and working at least one year in social welfare institutes, are qualified candidates for the National Examination for Social Worker.
2. Social workers with more than five years of work experience (including both administrative personnel and practitioners, as specified in the Children, Disability and Senior's Social Welfare Act) are also qualified candidates.
3. Students in a four-year course at social welfare scheme-related universities or colleges, after completing the designated six subjects and 16 units and six-month training course from an training institute, are qualified candidates.
4. Students from a twoor three-year course at social welfare scheme-related universities or colleges, who completed the designated six subjects and 16 units, have to obtain one year's (three-year course students) or two years (two-year course students) of work experience in institutes designated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. On top of that, they must pass a six-month training course in an training institute to become qualified for the exam.
5. Students from a four-year course in an ordinary university who did not select the designated subjects (as previously mentioned) can complete at least one year of an education training course from an training institute to become qualified candidates.
6. Students form a two or three-year course at an ordinary university or college who did not select the designated subjects can obtain their candidature after working at least one year (for three-year course students) or two years (for two-year course students) in institutes designated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and passing at least one year of an education training course at an training institute.
7. Those who work in institutes designated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for more than four years and have passed at least one year of an education training course from an training institute are qualified candidates. All candidates with qualifying scores can register to become an official professional social worker. (Chiang, 2002)
There are 150 multiple-choice questions in the exam, divided into a total of 13 groups of general and special subjects. Local social work organizations serve as examiners in such examinations. From the social worker certification system of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the United States, and Japan, it can be seen that there is no significant difference between the registration or examination system of each one, only different designs due to cultural factors or laws. However, we should pay special attention to who dominates the system and its development. In the United Kingdom, the United States, and Hong Kong, it is the professional organization in charge of its development and related affairs, while in Taiwan and Japan, it is the government that dominates from the examination system to the test questions. The history of the development of social work in these countries reveals the fact that problems vary according to who dominates the field.
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