Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training

Monday, 18 March 2019

IASSW and IFSW to update Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training.

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) have initiated a joint process of reviewing and updating the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training.

The current version of the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training document was adopted at the IASSW and IFSW General Assemblies in Adelaide, Australia in 2004.  Over the last fifteen years this document has served as an aspirational guide setting out the requirements for excellence in social work education.

However, the social work education and practice landscape, has changed significantly since 2004. The adoption of a new Global Definition of Social work in July 2014 and the publication of the updated Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles last year, require that the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training document is also reviewed and updated in order to reflect broader changes and recent developments in global social work.  These developments also include social work’s role in supporting bottom up development to meet the aspirations of the SDGs, ensuring countries that are new to social work have global peers to support the advancement of social work education free from colonial influences and creating platforms for indigenous social workers to shape curricula and relevant courses.

To this effect, the two organisations have created a joint task group comprising the IFSW Interim Global Education Commission and IASSW’s Global Standards Taskforce

Professor Vasilios Ioakimidis, Chair of IFSW’s Interim Global Education Commission mentioned: I am delighted that we have established this joint initiative to update and enhance the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training. All parts of the social work profession need to work together to increase our capacity in facing the increasing threats to human rights and wellbeing. Both IFSW and IASSW are committed to facilitating an extensive and inclusive consultation with social work educators, practitioners experts by experience and trade unionists. Establishing global standards that prepare graduates to achieve the profession’s mission ( or values) and enact on the professions policies and principles will result in a significant positive impact on the lives of millions. The joint IFSW and IASSW approach for social work, education should be a dynamic process that takes into consideration the most recent global developments in the social work profession while appreciating the diverse political, historical and cultural contexts within which future generations of social workers will be educated.

Professor Dixon Sookraj, Chair of IASSW Task group stated: I appreciate the honour of working with colleagues at the IASSW and the IFSW to undertake this critical task of updating the Global Standards. We will inevitably face challenges similar to those of our predecessors who developed the original standards. They include the task of maintaining a delicate balance between detailing unifying themes and allowing sufficient flexibility to ensure relevance to  local-level social work education and practice. I look forward to the ongoing dialogue and consultation with colleagues across the globe. They will serve as critical sources of information to aid in strengthening the document, and enhancing its  utility as a critical resource for promoting  social work education across the Globe,

Global_Standards_Press Release IASSW and IFSW    

Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training

The Global Minimum Qualifying Standards Committee was set up as a joint initiative of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) at the joint IASSW/IFSW Conference in Montreal, Canada in July 2000.

Please click here to view: Global standards for the education and training of the social work profession

The final version of the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training was adopted by IASSW and IFSW at their General Assemblies in Adelaide, Australia in October 2004.

Vishanthie Sewpaul who was Chair of the Global Standards Committee writes:

We are indebted to our international colleagues for their responsiveness and engagement in making the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training possible. We are particularly indebted to all those colleagues who translated the document into several languages. The idea of Global Standards was conceived well before my entry into it through the visionary leadership of persons such as Lena Dominelli who was Chair of what was then called the Global Qualifying Standards Committee from January 2000 until January 2001, when I was appointed as the chair. On first hearing about the possibility of formulating global standards for social work education and training I was appalled by what I thought to be a far too presumptuous and ambitious project. I immediately questioned its potential to reinforce Western imperialism and hegemonic discourses and expressed my reservation about getting engaged in such as process. I was told that as I was aware of the complexities of such an initiative I would be well suited to approach it with the kinds of sensitivities that was required.

I entered the terrain by beginning dialogue with members of the Global Standards Committee and with as many colleagues across the world as possible. I initially asked colleagues what they thought about the idea of developing global standards, what might be its potential advantages and disadvantages, what should constitute the contents of such a document, should it materialize. To my surprise, I found that the majority of colleagues were in favour of developing global standards. Their recommendation, I thought, was ‘a tall order’ that such a document that details certain universals be sufficiently flexible to be applicable to any context and allow for interpretations of locally specific social work education and practice. Having obtained the mandate to continue with such an initiative, on the input of the Committee and colleagues, a review of available national and regional standards and a review of literature a first draft was produced in January 2002. Various consultative processes, all of which are detailed in the Global Standards document, and several reviews later culminated in the document that was adopted at the General Assemblies of IASSW and IFSW in Adelaide in October 2004, with the proviso that the concerns of social pedagogues be incorporated into in the document, with the social pedagogues providing the language to embrace their concerns. When the social pedagogues provided such a language they insisted that all reference to “social work” should read as the “social work profession.” Thus, the final document refers to: “Global Standards for the Education and Training of the Social Work Profession.”

Despite the flaws inherent in the process of representation the document, which has been developed through an inclusive a process as possible, does represent, to the best of our ability, the views of IASSW and IFSW membership. While the vision of global standards was initially conceived by IASSW and IFSW leadership, its substance was determined by a broad constituency. The document is not intended to be a finite, static end product and in the interests of deepening our commitment to social justice, human rights, inclusivity, international dialogue and responsiveness to service users we have to consistently question the value of what we are doing and how we are doing it. Thus, there is a call for our colleagues across the globe to critically engage with the document, assess its relevance for their particular historical, socio-economic, political and cultural contexts and engage in cross national and cross regional dialogue about social work education and practice. The Global Standards have stimulated a great deal of debate as seen in the number of publications related to it. See for example, the special themed issue on Global Standards in Social Work Education, Volume 23, No. 5, October 2004 and the International Journal of Social Welfare, Volume14, No. 3, July 2005. Interesting debates continue. For example, I was recently asked to write a response to a paper written by two UK colleagues for the International Journal of Social Welfare regarding the applicability of the international definition of social work and the global standards to the Chinese context.