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Thursday, March 27, 2014

History of Social Work Education - Gamre Chima R Marak

 An assessment of social work education must begin with a look that there have been sweeping changes that has taken place in the national as well as the international level. 

Several individuals have shared their valuable thoughts into the emergence of Social Work as a discipline for education:

Dr Thomas identified some of the emerging fields that social work educators have to concentrate. The identified areas are: gerontology, environment, peace studies, counseling, tribal exploitation, etc. He is of the opinion that is social workers should concentrate on such areas of concern so as not to become irrelevant. In order to develop the social work education, the importance of communication skills is felt and the quality of the atmosphere of the training institutions, which according to Dr Thomas determines the quality of the final product.

Dr D. Paul Chowdhry calls for a curriculum building in social work education, as it is a very difficult task. He adds that the curriculum constructed should be dynamic in nature, and should be a continuous and joint exercise of the academicians, administrators and practitioners and other experts in the field.

Prof. S. B Saxena touches upon important aspects of social work education, and stresses on how each can be strengthened by having a built-in system of feedback. There is a need to sharpen research tools so as to identify the emerging needs and new concerns. Traditionally, the honored method of instruction was ‘blackboard and chalk’. With the exceptional expansion of communication technology, it will be more effective to use the modern technology in social work education. Until 1994, there were ten institutions in India which was providing undergraduate education in Social Work.

Dr. H. Y. Siddique talks on the important models of Social Work, such as “Systems Approach”, “Social Change Approach” and “Neighborhood development” and so on, which enables us to get a clear message as to the extent of the contribution that Social Work provides for the enrichment of the society.

Dr. I. A. Shariff is of the view that great leap has been made by Psychiatric Social Work in India, with the help of NIMHANS, Bangalore. NIMHANS has been providing M.Phil, training programs and research work in Psychiatric Social Work.

History of Social Work
It is being said that ‘Social Work’ is an extension of the earlier types of activities in the last centuries. Even though, Social Work did not seem to exist before the 1860s, certain periods in the history played a role in developing Social Work. The historical development can be divided into the following stages:
        i.            The Colonial Period (1620-1776)
      ii.            Civil War and Industrial Revolution (1776-1860)
    iii.            Industrialism-The Human Side (1860-1900)
    iv.            Social Work seeking professional characteristics (1900-1930)
      v.            Highly Professionalized Discipline (1930 onwards)
In the USA, the existence of Social Welfare Services was present since the establishment of the original thirteen colonies on the eastern sea board in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Elizabethan Poor Law existed as the basic pattern for extending financial assistance for the people in need.

Beginning of Social Work Education

The first professional Social Worker in United States of America was Mary E. Richmond. She was also the treasurer of Baltimore Charity Organisation Society and later became a practitioner, teacher and a theoretician. In the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in 1897 in Toronto, she advocated towards the establishment of a training school for professional social workers. The Charity Organisation Society of New York started the training course for perspective Social Workers in 1898. A little later, New York School of Philanthropy was created, which is known today as Columbia University School of Social Work.
The Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy was established in 1901, which late on became affiliated to the University of Chicago. It was then realized that education for Social Work should be part of the general University education. Simmons College in Boston was the third School of Social Work to be established. This school in Boston was the pioneer school to develop medical social work.

In 1919, the American Association of Schools of Social Work was founded. Its purpose was to facilitate the communication among the other schools of social work.

In 1867, Edward Edison thought that the distribution of alms or relief did not serve as a solution of the problem. University settlement had three objectives:
        i.            Education and Cultural Development of the poor.
      ii.            Provide information to the students and other inmates of the settle house regarding the poor for the improvement of their conditions for the social reform.
    iii.            To develop consciousness towards social and health problems and the need for enacting legislation.

In 1928, the International Association of Schools of Social Work was founded at the International Conference of Social Work in Paris. The initial number of schools of social work was 51. The association comprised of member schools from different parts of the world.

According to the decision of the Association of Schools of Social Work, it was firmly established that the American tradition of organizing social work education on the graduate level would begin. With the emergence of graduate education in Social work in the United States of America as the only level of professional social work, the existence of the undergraduate programs did not disappear. It continued to meet the demands of the state departments of public welfare. In 1942, the institution organized their courses under the name National Associations of Schools of Social Administration. The Association was able to promote the undergraduate level of social work courses in various parts of United States.

The event then followed several years of discussion between the associations so as to find a basis for agreement with regard to the development and accreditation of the undergraduate education in social work. Thus, leading to the formation of National Council of Social Work Education in 1946. It came to their realization that there was a need for University Education in Social Work, since it represented the progression of social work education from the undergraduate to the graduate years. Study of Social Work in the undergraduate level represented the first stage of preparation for social work; the first year of graduate year represented the second stage; whereas the second year of the graduate year represented the third stage which was necessary for the professional practice. The Post-graduate studies aimed at preparing for the professional leadership in administration, research and teaching, this represented the fourth stage. These stages came to be considered fundamental to any curriculum of social work education.

History of Social Work Education in India

The development of Social Work in India can be presented according to the historical analysis:
        i.            Era of Community Living
      ii.            Era of Charity
    iii.            Era of Secular Reforms
    iv.            Era of Religious Reforms
      v.            Era of Professional Training and Organisation
The organization of formal training for Social Workers started since the nineteen twenties by Social Service League, Bombay.
In the history of Social Work in India, 1936 marks a turning point as the first school of Social Work was started in Bombay under the advice of Dr. Clifford Manshardt of the American Marathi Mission. The school’s name was Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work, now known as Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The pattern of the school was based on the pattern of Schools of Social Work in the United States of America. It was the only institution of its kind for eleven years.
This was the only institution providing professional Social Work till 1947. After Independence, several schools came up – In 1947, Kashi Vidyapith, Varanasi, and College of Social Service, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad was established. Delhi School of Social Work in was established in 1948 and Department of Social Work, Lucknow University in 1949. The Gujarat Vidyapith was founded by Mahatma Gandhi.

The most prominent feature of the Social Work education in India has been the two year training program at the graduate level. In accordance with the international survey on training facilities in social work of 1950, it was noted that most of the countries in the world had only the undergraduate level of social work and not the graduate level, the graduate level education was confined to highly industrialized and economically well developed countries.

From the year 1955, there was a rapid expansion of welfare services and its requirement for trained social work personnel. Many more centers opened for Social Work education. The number of centers was 13 in 1960, grew to 34 in 1978 and to 50 in 1988. All the institutions that were set up before 1967 offered two year professional training in Social Work only on the graduate level. The undergraduate level was started only during the later part of 1960s.

Table: No. of students awarded Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD Degree in Social Work from 1950 to 1975 in India.
Bachelor’s Degree
Master’s Degree
PhD Degree

Different patterns of bachelor’s courses in social work developed in India. Origin of the first pattern was in 1955, when the departments of Sociology and Social Work in Lucknow University introduced social work as an optional subject in Bachelor’s program. Initially, it was not aimed at providing a professional course but to attract students for its Master’s Program in Social Work, which in turn helped in raising the quality and standard of its graduate teaching.

After having sufficient experience in conducting graduate program in social work, Nirmala Niketan had also started the under-graduate program in social work. It was in a better position to provide the link between the two levels of program, which also resulted in the revision and improvement of its Master’s curriculum.

The country saw that the expansion of the doctoral programs in social work was much faster than the bachelor’s program. There were only 5 doctoral programs in social work in 1965, which went up to 11 in 1980.
In India, the Associations of Schools of Social Work was established in 1960, so as to perform as a non-official organization in the field of social work education. Some of the concerns of the Association are:
        i.            Laying down and maintaining proper standards in professional social work education and promoting the profession on scientific lines.
      ii.            Providing opportunity for faculty members to meet and exchange their ideas.
    iii.            Arranging seminar and refresher courses for faculty members.
    iv.            Encouraging and coordinating researches and promoting publication of literature on different subjects relating to social work.
      v.            Disseminating information with regard to social work education.
    vi.            Working as a national forum on all matters concerning social work education.

In India, in the early twentieth century, the phenomenon that appeared was formal training in social work which comprised of a course of lectures and supervised fieldwork. In the wake of nineteenth century, there was the growth of adhoc training courses. The first set of training in social work education was given by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bombay.

The schools of Social Work which were established earlier had the expertise and the resources to develop social work education in the under-graduate level and integrate it with the graduate level, but no such initiative was adopted by them. But Rural Institutes of Vishva Bharati and Jamia Millia Islamia converted their Diploma in Rural Services to Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 1967.

In 1963, the first Review Committee of the Association of the Schools of Social Work in India organized a National Seminar in Bangalore. The seminar was conducted so as to discuss the questions on organizing social work education in the under-graduate level.

In the second Review Committee, it was noted that as the graduate social work education started in India following the American pattern, the Bachelor’s of Social Work program also took inspiration from the American pattern. The American model aimed at:
        i.            Providing the students of liberal education knowledge of social work, which may be useful for the effective carrying out of non-social work jobs.
      ii.            Training students for jobs with social work functions at the intermediate or field levels.
    iii.            Preparing students for graduate education in social work.
Till 2009, the number of Social Work training institution was 41. Bachelor’s degree was still being provided by some, Certificate courses in Social Work, Post-graduate diploma and most of them were conducting courses which were leading to Master’s degree in Social Work. And about one third of them were providing PhD courses. And two of the institutions were providing the highest research degree of D. Litt in Social Work.


It is seen that social work existed since earlier times. Although, its recognition as a profession and as a discipline in education came to be recognized much later. After comparing and contrasting the evolution of undergraduate education in Social Work in U.S.A and India, it is pointed out that the undergraduate program in Social Work developed well in the U.S.A. In India, most institutions that had initially started with an undergraduate program, but eventually developed post-graduate programs too. But rarely, institutions that began with a post-graduate program started an under-graduate program.

It is looked upon at social work education to produce efficient social workers since education is not merely a preparation for career but preparation for life. Through higher education there is a need to improve the quality of social work as a profession and as a discipline in Universities, so as to meet the requisite capacity to face the global problems and the need to make a distinct contribution in the society.

Jacob, K. K. (1994). Social Work in India: Retrospect and Prospect. New Delhi: Himanshu Publications.
Jha, J. K. (2009). An Introduction to Social Work. New Delhi: Anmol Publications.
Singh, S., & Srivastava, S. P. (2003). Social Work Education in India: Challenges and Opportunities. Lucknow: New Royal Book Co. 


Mincy mins said...

1. Chronological order is maintained
2. There is a link in the complete write up
3. It has been comprehensively written and concluded.
4. Referencing style of APA has been followed

Asna Nesrin said...

very comprehensive and well written article.