Status of Programs of Local Universities
A total of seven local universities offering social work as a major bodes well for the country. Apart from USM, most of the other universities are still in their formative years. Nonetheless, all of the programs offer a broad social work curriculum. Although there are variations among the courses offered, they all include basic core courses such as (1) Introduction to Social Work, (2) Values and Ethics in Social Work, (3) Social Work Practice with Individual and Family, (4) Introduction to Social Work Research, (5) Introduction to Group Work, (6) Theory and Practice of Community Work, (7) Field Work, (8) Social Psychology, and (9) Human Behaviour and Personality.
Apart from that, all the universities offer optional courses such as (1) Social
Policy and Welfare System, (2) Health Psychology, (3) Abnormal Psychology,
(4) Human Service Organization, (5) Law for Social Workers, (6) Medical Social Work, (7) Gerontology, (8) Juvenile Delinquency, (9) Criminology, (10) Substance Abuse, (11) Social Work in Industry, (12) Religion and Social Welfare, (13) School Social Work, (14) Counselling, (15) Family Dynamics, (16) Social Work with Youth and Children, and (17) Social Work Skills in Rehabilitation Institutions.
USM, UNIMAS, and UMS are more oriented towards producing a general social work graduate, while UPM tends to focus more on human development, and UM towards social administration and social justice. UKM on the other hand, is known for its emphasis on medical social work, and UUM primarily focuses on the management aspects of social services. To graduate, apart from other general requirements of a particular university, most programs require students to take a minimum of eight core courses and four option courses and another four elective courses.
Each course carries between three to four credit hours. At USM each course carries four credit hours (two hours lecture and two hours tutorial), while at UUM each course is three hours (two hours lecture and one hour tutorial). Apart from the courses offered, all of the universities offer field work or practicum for the students. Prior to the 1996/97 academic year, the social work programs were based on a four-year program. However, decisions made by political leaders changed most of the universities' programs to three years, social work not being spared. Before the 1996/97 academic year, there were three field work components (stretched over three semesters – working with individuals, working with groups, and working with the community, respectively. As a result of the reduction to three years, all of the field work components were reduced to two semesters instead of three – one semester working with individuals and another semester working with groups/community.
Theoretically, the courses and curriculum offered by the Malaysian universities are generally in line with international standards. However, one of the main concerns is the qualification of teaching staff in each university – many of the universities still do not have adequately trained and qualified staff. Many still do not have doctorate degrees in social work, and those that do have doctorate degrees that are not in the area of social work. UUM, for instance, has several MSW holders, while at UKM, most do not even have a social work degree at any level.
Arguably many of the problems of social work education in Malaysia will be alleviated if there is a body to monitor social work programs towards achieving professional standards. The MASW recognize and register members who have a degree/diploma in social work or in social science with more than five years' working experience in a social work setting. In the last three years, MASW has initiated moves towards competency standards and professional accreditation for practitioners.
Since social work education is relatively young and most of the universities are still developing, there is obviously a need to establish standards. Standard-setting will enable social work to move towards a higher level of professionalism, this will also be in line with the national plan. The accreditation body is to set internationally recognized standards in governing the universities' curriculum, contents, length and hours of practicum, staff qualification, and the ratio of students to staff.