Revamp social work education


Social work education since its inception in India in 1936 is still based on the western- euro culture and paradigm. Even after eight decades of social work education in India, there has been no significant change in the curriculum, research and field-work training.

By and large, social work methods, principles, values and techniques and theories taught in Indian colleges and universities are purely western and have been adopted in our country without evaluating its suitability in Indian context. The western paradigm of social work is not universally acceptable in India which is characterised by multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious society. This diversity is further complicated due to urbanisation, industrialisation, modernisation and globalisation. This intricate mix of traditions and modernity makes it almost impossible to construct one overarching formula to fit all.

In the international academic forums, there is also a growing and continuing debate on indigenisation vis-à- vis universalisation of social work education. Even the International Federation of Social Workers definition emphasises on indigenous knowledge, along with theories of social work, social sciences, and humanities as the knowledge base of social work profession. In this situation, it is futile to think of single model to be suitable across all regions for social work education and practice. Therefore, it calls for decolonizing the colonial legacy of social work education and need for formulating (Swadeshi) indigenous social work models, theories and more particularly developing of Bharatiya model of social work.

Our rich cultural traditions, values and ethics needs to be thoroughly integrated in each and every paper of social work syllabi at the Bachelors, Masters, MPhil and PhD level to make it relevant in the contemporary Indian society. The rich social work traditions and the spiritual aspects of religion in the growth of social work education needs to be integrated in the Indian Social Work curriculum including the basic tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, Jainism and particularly the vedic epistemology and ontology.

There may be some elements of universality and utility in imparting the colonial model of social work education but applying entirely the Euro centric models is further going to detoriate quality of social work education in India. In this critical period, social work academicians should come out of their status quo and look forward to study the traditional Indian roots of social work, initiatives of social reformers and philanthropists, models of rural reconstruction experiments and Indian spiritual ideals and values.

The history of social work in India has not been properly documented. The significant contributions and developmental models propounded by the great Indian thinkers particularly Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Jyotiba Phule, Nanaji Deshmukh, Rabindranath Tagore, Narayan Guru, Anna Hazare, Baba Amte and others should be given sufficient emphasis which is highly relevant in the reconstruction of Indian Society.

Each and every paper taught in the Indian universities needs to be redefined, restructured, reframed and thoroughly indigenised. There is also not a separate paper on Indian Social Work at the Bachelors Level.

The professional social work education imparted in India has completely negated the relevance and implications of vedic traditions in the solution of the problems of individuals, groups and communities. The indigenous knowledge on vedic ontology and epistemology can be very effective in psycho-social problems of the individuals, groups and communities, which should be incorporated in the social work curriculum. The observations made by Flexner more than hundred years ago still characterise the same situation in our country. Moreover, in the present globalised India, people are suffering from insurmountable tension, frustration, anxiety and depression. In this critical juncture, there is a need for integrating the spiritual tenets of religion, yoga, meditation in the social work curriculum.

The writer is Dr Bishnu Mohan Dash, assistant professor, Department of Social Work, Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, University of Delhi.



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