Academic journal article Education

Social Work Education and Global Issues: Implications for Social Work Practice

Academic journal article Education

Social Work Education and Global Issues: Implications for Social Work Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

For the purpose of this paper, globalization is referred to as the increasing interaction and interdependence of world society (Giddens, 1993). In this decade, members of groups of color will be a majority in some states of the United States. Therefore, social work in culturally diverse societies will require an understanding of the cultural roots of the different ethnic groups. The growing poverty within nations and economic inequalities between them are a related global reality that affects social work. The decades of the 1980s and 1990s have witnessed a growing income gap, not simply because rich people are growing richer, but also because poor people are becoming poorer. Many developing countries, especially those in Africa and Asia, have been hit hard by this increasing disparity of wealth. There is a great gap in the quality of life among human beings around the world and that gap is widening. One billion, three hundred million people in the developing world live below the poverty level, and of these one billion have no access to basic services such as safe water and primary health care. Eight hundred million do not have enough food, and five million are chronically malnourished (United Nations (UN) Development Programme, 1996). Thus, the magnitude of the problem is global and has an impact on social work roles and responsibilities throughout the world (Hokenstad & Midgley, 1997).

These are key global concerns that challenge social work today and will continue to do so in the next century. Additional challenges that are similar in scope and comparable in importance are human rights violations, AIDS and other epidemics, and the deterioration of the physical environment. All of these are global in scope and must be addressed internationally as well as locally. Now that we are in this new millennium, it is no longer enough to think globally and act locally. Social work must now face these global problems which often require global interventions. Therefore, the scope of global poverty and the intensity of ethnic conflict also require global interventions. Global issues require action on many levels by many actors. But these are problems that are directly related to social work's commitment and expertise. Social workers at the local level are directly involved with the implications of international realities by working with refugees or helping displaced workers. At the national level in many countries, the profession is active in promoting economic and social justice policy. Although social work clearly has an important role in addressing global issues, it has major obstacles to overcome to become a more effective player. Thus, lack of status and resources affects social work in most countries and limits the profession's capacity to respond to pressing human needs. Therefore, social workers must have an international perspective and understanding to be effective practitioners in today's world (Hokenstad & Midgley, 1997).

If social workers are to become not only more involved but also more effectively involved in international organizations and global issues, the international dimension of social work education must be strengthened. Educational programs for social workers around the world give only limited attention to social issues that extend beyond national boundaries. Most students have little if any exposure to international roles for social workers. Although there is some international content in the curricula of a sizable number of schools of social work, most of it is focused on cross-national policy and program comparisons rather than global issues and practice roles (Hokenstad & Kendall, 1995).

Literature Review

Recently interest in the global dimensions of social work practice has been renewed with a focus on the positive benefits of cross-national collaboration between social workers as well as the negative effect globalization processes can have on people's health and welfare. …

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