CHECK IT OUT! APASWE: No. 29 (2018)

What should the Curricula Be for International Social Work Education?
Japanese social work schools have strong ideas on curriculum development

Kana Matsuo



The 3rd Shukutoku University International Academic Forum was successfully held on January 20, 2018 in the Japanese Association for Social Work Education (JASWE) meeting room, Tokyo, Japan. This forum was generously co-sponsored by IASSW, APASWE, and other major academic associations in Japan. It was designed and initiated by the Asian Research Institute for International Social Work (ARIISW), Shukutoku University.  This was the first international forum that focused on international social work curricula in Japan. JASWE and the Japanese Society for the Study of Social Work co-organized the forum and co-sponsored the program, along with the Japanese Society of Social Welfare Education.

The forum’s two goals were:

a) to explore international social work curricula for each country, Asia, and the world; and

b) to contribute to promoting interest in international affairs, issues, problems, and perspectives in Japan’s social work community. Participants were primarily Japanese social work researchers and educators, including those responsible for “international social work” and related subjects.

After the opening address from Professor Tetsuya Isooka, President of Shukutoku University, and four individuals welcomed guests during the opening ceremony.

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1 President & Professor Isooka

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2 Professor Kawatei

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3 Professor Kuroki

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4 Professor Kimura

Professor Yasuhiro Kuroki  provided a brief history on JASWE since 1956. He emphasized that all students learning social work need to be sensitive to international perspectives and bond with strong ties, regardless of their nationalities. Professor Motoyuki Kawatei  raised questions about the reality of migrant workers and international students in Japanese communities within a globalized human resource market. Professor Mariko Kimura  stressed that educators play an important role and are greatly responsible for sharing knowledge on internationalized social work with people working in the field.

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5 Professor Campanini

Professor Annamaria Campanini, IASSW’s President, emphasized Japanese schools’ contribution on the international level. She also cited the need to understand and teach the impact of globalization on our societies.

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6 Professor Healey

Professor Lynn Healey, Professor Emeritus from the University of Connecticut, and Professor Zulkarnain A. Hatta were the forum’s main speakers.  

Professor Healey stated in a published article that, “By 2020, we will no longer be talking about whether to internationalize social work education, because we will already have figured out that practice and our context is global, and therefore, of course social work education around the world will have responded to this, and we will have a holistic approach to social work curriculum.” She clearly depicted international social work research trends in the United States and the world, curriculum content, and the expected learning effects from a lecture. Professor Healy cited several teaching challenges as follows: students lack basic knowledge in history, economics, and even maps; teachers have limited international knowledge; people struggle to think globally rather than from their own countries’ vantage points; and an English bias exists in literature. She also promised to cooperate in developing a curriculum on international social work.

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7 Professor Hatta

Professor Zulkarnain Hatta described the international social work curriculum at the Universiti Sains Malaysia. According to Professor Hatta, most Malaysian educators were trained abroad, though this trend has recently changed. Ph.D. holders and educators are training locally and within the Malaysian context. The contents of Professor Hatta’s international social work are similar to those of Professor Healey. However, he is teaching international social work with a local emphasis on social work within the Malaysian culture.

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8 Professor Akimoto

Professor Akimoto questioned what research would define as international social work. His idea went beyond the existing curricula, such as country reports from overseas, attending international conferences, and international collaborative research. He demonstrated a unique curriculum model at the end of his presentation.

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9 Associate Professor Ogino

The final presentation by Associate Professor Takahito Ogino reported on the international social work curriculum that is currently in place at Toyo University, Japan, a MEXT Super Global University Project school. He discussed his university’s case and reported two challenges: securing job opportunities and the need to conceptualize international social work research/studies. Mr. Atsushi Komori, Director General of JASWE, added his comments and demonstrated the Japanese government’s strategy to review the Japanese Certified Social Worker curriculum. JASWE will propose that the government incorporates "international social work" as a keyword.

Throughout the forum, participants were expected to update their information on international social work curriculum from a global perspective. Presenters received much more remarks and questions than we expected during the free discussion. The significance of this forum might reignite the international social work discussion.  

Japanese social work schools have strong ideas about curriculum development. Therefore, what are JASWE’s next steps? The Secretary General of JASWE and some forum participants will visit the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the University of Connecticut at the end of April. This forum will specifically lead and stimulate discussions on international social work education in Japan. The proceeding report is planned to be published by the end of 2018.