The platinum jubilee of social work education was observed in 2011. The establishment of the Sir Dorabji Graduate School of Social Work marked the beginning of education for "professional" social work in India. Subsequently, the School of Social Work became an institute of social sciences to accomodate other courses. Starting "job-oriented" MSW and even BSW courses in colleges across the country is now common. The recent trend is the proliferation of Social Work degrees by the directorates of distance education. Who bothers about the quality of education so long as the flow of money is uninteruppted ? Yet Social Work graduates are in demand in different social and corporate sectors. Many are in lucrative positions of authority, while many others work with children, women, elderly, the differently-abled, the mentally challenged, the HIV-affected, and other disadvantaged groups enabling them to transform their lives.
The conservative social workers assert that social work is a profession. But there does not seem to have social acceptance of this claim. There is no doubt about the professional status of medicine and law. It is not so with social work, though some of its characterstics are similiar to law and medicine.
Some of the requirements of the profession are adapted from Edgar Schein, former Professor of MIT's Sloan School of Management, who disputes the claims of "management" as a profession. In India, spread of Social Work courses has been haphazard. The Association of Schools of Social Work in India, a voluntary body, is almost defunct. The Indian Association of Trained Social Workers was dissolved years ago. In its place , there are some "professional" groups in some cities. It is disturbing that many Social Work graduates in the human resource management field in the corporate organisations are not comfortable with the social work identity; they prefer to be called HRM graduates. The professional status of Social Work in India, as of now, is a BIG QUESTION MARK. But, to be a committed social worker the professional tag is not necessary.
Rtd. Professor of Social Work,
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