Home Sociology Social Work in East Asia
Social work practitioners and academics have to be activists in promoting and educating both the public and government officials. They have to align and find allies with sympathetic ears, especially among members of Parliament, ministers, and policymakers. The task is to make social work officially recognized as a 'professional' profession (similar to architects, medical doctors, and lawyers). Along with that recognition, the salary scheme will have to be adjusted to make the lives of social workers comfortable, rather than the meager amount that entry levels are getting now for a job that is not labelled 'social worker'.
The irony of the situation is that most who call themselves 'social workers', both in the public and private sectors, are not trained formally. A medical doctor, a counsellor, a minister, a politician, an activist – all can lay claim to be a social worker, while the real social worker still struggles to be recognized. Some of them are of the opinion that one need not be trained formally to be a social worker. If one is to accept their line of reasoning, the effort of MASW to create competency standards for practitioners, and MCSWE's efforts to establish an accreditation body will be to no avail:
However, with the soon to be approved Social Work by the government, the situation looks promising in mitigating these 'professionalism' issues. The term 'professional' in Malaysia in the context of social work is still a contentious issue. Hence, the effort to define professional social work must be carried out vigorously, lest many think anyone can be a social worker by just having good intentions. (Hatta, 2007)
Much advance has been made in the practice of professional social work since colonial days, and since 1952 when the first few social work courses were introduced in Singapore. However, much more needs to be done. With the lingering uncertainty in public perception about social work and the contradictions of the authorities, the task to improve the condition of social work practice and education is still very challenging. The importance of having the Social Workers' Act and establishing the accreditation body should never be understated. The existence of the act and the accreditation body is not an end, but a part of the process to ultimately bring complete recognition of social work without any lingering ambiguity in Malaysia.
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