An Overview of Social Work as a Profession and Social Work Education
Xuyen Dangers – Laos
Students of Mr. Saychai were already waiting in the classroom where Mr. Saychai teaches the course ‘Social Problems.’ Later many more students and teachers arrived. The Donkoi team set up about 30 social work books in English and Vietnamese as well as Thai language books outside at the table in front of the classroom. Xuyen also prepares a written introduction of her background, school and work experiences. Another sheet with the 11 topics of her talk today with another detailed information of what Social Work is, social worker, schools, where Social workers work.
Mr. Saychai introduced Xuyen briefly. Then she asked Sili to do a warm up exercise: Pipo and Salapao games. She asked if anyone knew what she was going to talk about, who had heard about Social work and a few raised their hands. One said he had heard that I would talk about Social work. A few said that they had heard about Social work, but it was on TV. Xuyen gave an example of a medical doctor and a role-play of a mother who held a sick baby had met her at the stairs of the children’s hospital in Viet Nam when she was a student of Social work in Saigon. They had heard how she helped to reduce the mother’s worries. The role-play illustrated a part of Social work steps of helping social problems. A Social worker is like a doctor, but doctors help cure the physical problems, and a Social worker is a doctor of social problems.
What is charity? What is a social role? She asked some to act out as a beggar why we need to help the beggar boy, because when he begs he loses his self-respect. A Social worker helps a beggar boy to return to his social role as a student and as a son helping at home.
Xuyen talked about charity at the temples at the church, but that was not enough. Social work should be a profession that needs to be studied like other subjects at the University level such as science. It has techniques, methods, and theories that need to be learned in a classroom. It needs books and needs practice at the agencies just like doctors need to practice in the hospital before they become a professional. We need to have a degree and to be qualified to practice Social work. We need a national association of Social workers who set the criteria for professional social work practitioners. It needs to have an International Federation of Social work to have regular meetings to share experiences to learn new development as the social problems are changing, new problems, we need to update our knowledge so we can address them more effectively.
Xuyen talked about other related subjects and professions who work closely with Social workers as “Helping professions” the professional use the “people centered” approach such as police, psychologist, psychiatrist, lawyers, teachers, sociologist, etc.
Lastly, Xuyen talked about places that social workers can work. Xuyen mentioned that besides the direct service Social workers also work with policy makers like the parliament, congress, national assembly as social workers know the social problems so that they can help bring people’s needs to national policy makers.
Lastly, Social workers work to bring social justice to the disadvantaged, most vulnerable people whether they are children, youth, families, or communities.
Xuyen had 15 minutes for questions and answers, but only one student asked and two questions were from faculty members. Where else does CWS work in Laos? Can students come to visit the centers of CWS’ Social Development program?
Xuyen concluded the talk with a Lao poem “Suong Sangkhom song kho” started with Sili who drummed on the tabletop (we forgot to bring the drum) while the rest of the participants clapped their hands and repeated after him.
She found one student from the participants who could chant well and he helped by chanting spontaneously another version of the content of the talk today: social work – Lao poem chanting is Xuyen’s favorite and she often uses Lao poem chanting for each activity she teaches, as it is very Lao!
Xuyen found some more poem sheets from Donkoi center: Lullaby “O.O.O.” that reflect Lao culture! Sili picked up and everyone seemed to like it again, it is soooo Lao! That ended Xuyen’s 1 ½ hour talk for the day.
On behalf of the faculty members and students Mr. Bunsom, the Deputy Head of Political Science Department of Faculty of Humanity and Faculty of Social Science thanked Xuyen for the presentation and the method of teaching how to write on paper and post on the board all the main ideas that she had presented. The teachers said they wished to keep the papers on the board so that students could come and look at it again and copy if they like. The faculty also gave a Lao textile wall hanging of That Luang as a souvenir for Xuyen.
On the way out the students looked at the display table of Social work books. Xuyen was able to explain some of the titles of the books and said most of these books were written by Vietnamese lecturers of The Open University and Mme Nguyen Thi Oanh wrote and edited the most.
Xuyen brought two betel nut trees from her house to donate to the faculty who asked Xuyen to plant them in the front yard of the faculty building. The Donkoi team was invited to have lunch at a very nice restaurant with delicious Lao food.
At lunch we planned the next activity: Acharn Saychai asked if he could bring 22 students of his “social problem” class to Somsanga Center’s 5th open house. Xuyen checked with The Director of SSN who approved the visit, which was held the next day.
This marks the first time the faculty and students have listened to a professional Social worker speak about social work. I am so happy and grateful.
Social work supervisor
Donkoi Children Development Center
Xuyen Dangers is a social worker in Laos/Vietnam. She serves as a Social work supervisor of Donkoi child center and 5 other centers, Social work advisor, Faculty of Social Sciences, and the National University of Laos.