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Making a career from doing good

THE Social Work Profession Bill, once passed, will lead to more opportunities for graduates in the field.

The Bill – already in the final stage of drafting – recognises social work as a profession and requires practitioners to be registered with the Social Work Profession Council.

This, said Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) member Elsie Lee Pek Neo, augurs well for youths passionate about wanting to make a difference.

Lee, who is also the Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) Diploma in Social Work programme course advisor and lecturer, said the social work profession has evolved from charity work to a practice-based one in developed countries.

“Social work is an activity carried out by professionally trained social workers to improve the well-being and social functioning of an individual, family, group, organisation or community.

“Beginning gradually in the late 19th century, formal social work education and training in colleges and universities became recognised as essential for practice.Lee: It is important for students to see how human behaviour impacts society and vice versa.

“Today, a social work graduate in the United States is only allowed to begin practice with a Master’s degree while in most other countries, to enter into practice, you must have an undergraduate degree, ” she told StarEdu.

Lee said social work has been globally afforded a professional status through the establishment of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW).

The IFSW, she said, has approved organisational membership to national social work associations in 80 countries, including Malaysia.

The IFSW’s recognition of the MASW as a professional body, she explained, endorses the status of its members and provides pathways to careers outside of Malaysia.

“Malaysian social work academics are also active in the Asia Pacific Social Work Educators Committee under the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW).

“A number of our graduates have found employment in Singapore and Australia, and it is expected that employment opportunities will be plenty in countries facing a shortage of social workers.

“The value of a professional degree in Malaysia is also expected to be enhanced once the Bill, which comes under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, is passed.”

On March 16, MCKL received a certificate of recognition and endorsement as “the only institution, private or public, to offer a Diploma in Social Work” from Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun.

The MCKL diploma programme, Lee said, ensures its students have basic knowledge and skills with a strong focus on ethical values.

“Our programme emphasises internalising social work principles, values and ethics for practice, and these are reinforced in the courses developed for the curriculum.

“The broad outline of courses includes the following six areas: human behaviour and social environment; social welfare policies; programmes and services; social work methods; fields of practice; field placements and Mata Pelajaran Pengajian Umum (MPU) subjects.

“Under studies on human behaviour and social environment, students are introduced to theories, concepts and approaches from psychology and sociology to understand human behaviour, and societal structures and systems.

“It is important for students to see how human behaviour impacts society and vice versa, ” she added.

Under social welfare policies, and programmes and services, students are given an overview of how people’s social welfare needs are being managed and delivered by the government and non-governmental agencies or civil societies.

To prepare students for graduate practice, Lee said the curriculum offers core subjects covering social work approaches and frameworks, values, methods of intervention, roles and skills.

“They also go through 14 weeks of preparation before each field placement and an additional 14 weeks of integrating and transferring their field placement experience into classroom teaching.

“This ensures close monitoring and assessment of students’ learning outcomes.”

Social work education at the diploma level, she added, provides basic theoretical and factual knowledge, skills and intervention methods for general practice.

A bachelor’s degree allows practitioners to gain more in-depth knowledge and skills which provide a pathway to postgraduate education in more complex and specialised biopsychosocial areas for therapeutic social work practice. Some of such areas of specialisation, she said, are in child protection, family violence, sexual exploitation, addiction, mental health and disaster management.

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