Social Work Educational Policy and Accreditation in Malaysia
Social work as a discipline has its own body of knowledge, values, and skills. As a discipline that prepares its students to work with people and societies, it is important for all the universities in Malaysia that offer social work programs to have standards consistent with global social work expectations, while at the same time taking into consideration the local context. The initiative to set up an accreditation body started around 2002/2003 when an ad hoc committee was established compromising all seven universities and the MASW. The committee was called the Malaysian Committee of Social Work Education and has since changed its status to a council, the Malaysian Council of Social Work Education. The discussion that follows will outline the objectives and plans of the intended accreditation body.
While taking the definition of social work adopted by IFSW and IASSW in Montreal, 2000, Malaysia's definition will be influenced by the country's national social policy. In the said policy, social work has an important role to play in promoting social harmony and stability, strengthening and enhancing the family unit and social cohesion, and fostering a caring society (cf., e.g., Hatta and Pandian, 2007). Towards that end, social work in Malaysia commits itself to:
• Bring about optimal social functioning of individuals, families, and communities by utilizing all necessary intervention approaches;
• Enhance human well-being and alleviate poverty, marginalization, and other forms of social injustice;
• Formulate and implement social services, programs, and policies that will meet the basic needs of all and maximize the capability of all for betterment; and
• Emphasize research and development in social work to help solve existing and emerging social problems.
In clarifying the objectives of their social work program, the local universities
should reflect on:
• The purpose and aim of Malaysian's definition of social work;
• The long-held value and ethical principles of social work;
• The incorporation of MCSWE's benchmark in developing curriculum; and
• Teaching–learning strategies.
The Proposed Curriculum Benchmark
Social work curriculums have to be developed with contents, teaching, and learning strategies that will prepare students for general competency and professionalism. With regards to practicum, it should be appropriately administered and supervised utilizing appropriate social work theories and practices. The curriculum must include the following four main components:
1. Core social work courses that encourage the development of professional competency in dealing with individuals, families, groups, and communities; using social work intervention inventories; working with the appropriate ethics and values; working professionally in organizations; and the ability to make a self-reflection on the work done. These core courses should focus on the following themes:
• Social work values and principles – the ability to adopt them in different situations and cultural contexts;
• Social work theories and practices that cover working with individuals and families, group work, community work, social policy, and social work research;
• Interpersonal communication skills in helping;
• Knowledge of human behaviour and social environment with an emphasis on person-in-environment perspective, lifelong development perspective, loss and attachment issues, and the ability to understand critically social structure and cultural factors that influence human behaviour;
• Social policy and welfare system;
Social work history and development at the international and local levels;
• Knowledge and skills working in a social service organization;
• Social work practices that are based on various cultural settings; and
• Social work practices that are based on an international, global context.
2. Foundational courses in the social sciences such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science. These courses are necessary in developing students to become wholesome in their generic competency. In order to achieve that end, the following themes must be incorporated in the courses: (a) Society and Culture, (b) Race and Ethnicity, (c) Gender Relations, (d) Multiculturalism, (e) Power Analysis, (f) Development Issues, (g) Social Ecology, (h) Social Dynamics, (i) Social Changes, (j) Displaced Population, (k) Indigenous People's Issues, (l) Globalization, (m) Cognition and Learning, (n) Deviance, (o) Social Psychology, (p) Human Development, (q) Philosophy and Ethics, and (r) Religion and Spirituality.
3. Courses which prepare students for selected fields of practice: (a) Family and Child Welfare, (b) Reformatory Service, (c) Health and Medical Social Work, (d) School Social Work, (e) Gerontology, (f) Women and Minorities, and (g) Disability.
4. Practicum/field work that provides students with clearly designed learning
experiences in a practice setting:
• A minimum of two field placements, which make up a total of 800– 1,000 hours, is required;
• A minimum of eight weeks per semester in an agency and community respectively to facilitate students' development of professional competencies;
• Prerequisite courses must be taken before students start their practicum;
• A minimum of one hour per week supervision where at least 50 percent are being conducted by a professional supervisor who should be a qualified social worker;
• Planned coordination and liaison between the university and agencies to ensure the field work experience meets the program planned objectives and outcomes;
• A minimum of two site visits by the academic supervisor per semester; and
• The proportion of core social work and foundational courses in the curriculum has to be 85 per cent for core courses including practicum, and 15 per cent for foundation courses.