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Introduction to the special issue: globalization and social work education.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS special topic issue of the Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE) is to advance social work educators' knowledge of the effects of globalization on social work curriculum and the strengths and challenges of current efforts to respond, and to provide alternative models of integrating global learning for schools and programs considering introducing or furthering global content in their curriculum.

According to Wilson, globalization is the "growing interconnectedness and integration of economies across national borders" and also involves "the diffusion of social, cultural and political ideas" (2012, p. 16). Globalization is evident in numerous spheres of life, including economic, demographic, environmental, cultural, and social welfare. For social work the global movement of people is particularly relevant. Migration has accelerated and is transforming domestic practice realities. Currently, almost 13% of the population in the United States is foreign born, up from only 5% in 1970, and 20% of U.S. residents have at least one parent born in another country. That one in five households in the United States is an international family makes global learning essential for every social worker. Accompanying the growth in numbers has been a dramatic shift in diversity of new arrivals over the past 4 decades. In 1970 almost 62% of the immigrant population came from Europe. Of the more than one million legal permanent residents admitted in 2010, only 8.5% were European; Africans accounted for 9.7%, 40% were Asian, and almost as many (39.4%) came from Latin America and the Caribbean (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2011).

Migration has played an important role in student interest in global and international social work not only in the United States. As the article contributed by Sven Trygged and Bodil Eriksson indicates, it also is a critical factor motivating social work student interest in Germany and Sweden. "How Do Students Perceive the International Dimension in Social Work Education?: An Enquiry Among Swedish and German Students" analyzes the meaning of international content in the social work curriculum to students in those countries. Trygged and Eriksson found that students, particularly the Swedes, were interested in learning more about social work in other countries. However, both German and Swedish students, especially those who were foreign-born or whose parents were foreign-born, were most interested in learning more about immigrant and refugee issues.

Globalization is not a new phenomenon, but for decades social work education in the United States paid little attention. After a flurry of international activities in the early days of CSWE and the inclusion of international content in the 1962 Curriculum Policy Statement, the focus turned inward. Curriculum policy from 1970 to 1992 made no mention of international content. Although it contained no guidelines on international content in the body of the statement, the preamble to the 1992 statement recognized the existence of global interdependence; this began a slow trend toward inclusion of internationally related learning goals. Since 2001, curriculum policy has been an important supporting force for expanded attention to international/global content in social work education (although the omission of global learning from the most recent competency statements is of concern). The 2001 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) stated that a purpose of social work education is to "prepare social workers to recognize the global context of social work practice" (CSWE, 2001). The policy included a requirement for content on "international issues in social welfare policy and social service delivery" and understanding of human rights and "global interconnections of oppression" (CSWE, 2001). The 2008 EPAS continued the recognition of the global context of social work education, noting global context as a component of a program's context and stating that social work is guided by "a global perspective" (CSWE, 2008). Competency to advance human rights is a requirement (Competency 5), and EPAS reasserts the global interconnections of oppression. Recognition of the importance of global content in the official educational standards that guide the social work curriculum helps establish legitimacy for this content area; indeed, in a 52-country study of global education, Tye (1999) identified lack of legitimacy of global content as a curriculum area as the second most frequently cited barrier to expanding global education.

A confluence of factors has led to a significant increase in attention to global content in social work education, including the intensification of the forces of globalization. Increasingly, social work educators recognize the effect of these forces on professional practice and their interrelationship with pressing domestic social and economic issues. Changing political and economic climates have returned social work to some countries such as those of the former Soviet Union and China. Wen-Jui Han, Yingsheng Li, and Chien-Chung Huang share with us an informative history of how social work recently returned to China after more than 40 years and the challenges social work education faces as it rapidly develops. As the authors explain, Chinese national plans call for three million social workers to be trained by 2020 to help address emerging social problems and build what the government refers to as a "harmonious society."

The growing interest in global social work has been building both abroad and domestically as evidenced by international courses and specializations offered at schools in Europe, Australia, and Canada, in addition to the United States, and exchange projects reaching every continent. Definitions of international or global social work education vary although the majority of social work efforts focus on increasing student and faculty understanding of the economic, political, social, legal, ethical, and environmental factors affecting global social issues; generating responses to address social issues and their global nature; developing relationships with partners in other countries to implement social work solutions to global problems and facilitate student and faculty involvement; and comparing social issues and responses across industrialized and developing countries. Global social work education may also include learning about social issues abroad to enrich cultural competency and advance social work practice with immigrants and refugees domestically, an increasingly important objective given the immigration statistics cited in the second paragraph of this editorial.

The global and interdisciplinary concept of well-being and the importance of its integration into both domestic and international social work practice is discussed by Dorothy Gamble in "Well-Being in a Globalized World: Does Social Work Know How to Make it Happen?" As Gamble notes, social worker practice is shaped by our conceptions of normative well-being, and social workers should understand differences in conceptualizations of well-being among developing and industrialized countries and how measures of evaluating well-being are evolving.

The differences in how global social issues are understood by social work students are explored in the article "Using Video as Pedagogy for Globally Connected Learning About the HIV/AIDS Pandemic." Diana Rowan, Davie Kabwira, Tlamelo Mmatli, Morena Rankopo, and Dennis D. Long video-recorded views on HW/AIDS of social work students' from the United States, Botswana, and Malawi, sequentially sharing the videos with each group of students for discussion. All of the students revealed culturally constructed meanings and beliefs associated with myths regarding HIV/AIDS, and the study captures an innovative approach using technology to advance student knowledge of global issues and teach students about alternative perspectives of social problems.

Similarly, Toorjo Ghose tells us how a service learning project in India was used to expose social work students to an alternative framework for understanding and responding to the precarious economic and social standing of sex workers. In his article, "Teaching About a Sex Work Community in India: Toward a Postcolonial Pedagogy," Ghose describes how social work students learned to apply a postcolonial perspective to sex work and in the process generated alternative solutions that the students shared with the community at large.

Universities and colleges are placing considerable emphasis on international programs, providing another environmental support for internationalizing social work programs. The important role of universities is recognized globally, as reflected in the 2009 communique from the World Conference on Higher Education:

Faced with the complexity of current and future global challenges, higher education has the social responsibility to advance our understanding of multifaceted issues ... and our ability to respond to them. It should lead society in generating global knowledge to address global challenges. (UNESCO, 2009)

In 2008 the American Council on Education issued a "Guide to Internationalization for Chief Academic Officers" (Hill & Green). Aimed at university provosts and vice presidents, the document makes numerous recommendations for comprehensive restructuring of college programs to enhance global education and suggests a growing demand for such guidance. As part of the response, study abroad has grown in popularity, and service learning projects are now common along with the more traditional visiting semester or year in a foreign university. New themes such as human rights and global citizenship have emerged to augment cross-cultural sensitivity and exposure as learning goals for international experiences. All these trends are relevant to social work and supportive of an expanded international focus.

Social work programs are finding new avenues for international activities through university-wide programs and also increasing their standing within their universities by developing global initiatives in social work and expanding study abroad. Study abroad options continue to be favored by many schools, yet efforts continue to isolate the specific value added by these experiences. Several articles in this issue evaluate the gains to students from study abroad experiences.

"Effects of Short-Term Study Abroad Programs on Students' Cultural Adaptability" by Susan C. Mapp explores the influence of study abroad experiences on undergraduate students' acquisition of cross-cultural skills using a pre/post design for students traveling to a wide variety of countries. The article concludes that these short-term student experiences significantly increase cross-cultural adaptability skills. In their article "Effect of International Social Work Education: Study Abroad Versus On-Campus Courses" authors Emily Greenfield, Rebecca Davis, and James Fedor compare the value-added of two types of international learning experiences. They find gains across multiple domains among social work students taking either on-campus or study abroad courses to Israel, Romania, or China; yet students who participated in study abroad courses rated themselves higher regarding skill acquisition. The authors also analyzed participants in each type of program, finding that students from racial/ethnic minority groups and students who were parents of children under age 18 were less likely to participate in study abroad programs. These authors call for social work education to find ways of being more inclusive in their study abroad programs.

The underrepresentation of social work students of color in international experiences is addressed in the article "International Programs: Advancing Human Rights and Social Justice for African American Students" by Sandra Edmonds Crewe and Lucinda A. Acquaye. Financial hardship, lack of exposure, and lack of connection to career goals are the typical reasons for the low participation in international learning opportunities by students of color. Crewe and Acquaye describe a Howard University-funded service learning model designed to overcome these barriers to participation.

Although all of the articles describing international learning experiences in this issue report positive educational outcomes, the contribution by David Engstrom and Sally Mathiesen reminds us of the real and severe dangers of student travel abroad that institutions and study abroad leaders need to consider carefully prior to departure. In "Study Abroad and an Accidental Death: Lessons Learned," the painful experience of a student's death while in Thailand is recounted along with the cultural, legal, logistical, and emotional challenges encountered in dealing with the tragedy and its aftermath. The article reinforces the importance of having clear and detailed guidelines in place for all kinds of student experiences abroad and reminds us that the unthinkable does happen.

The availability of communication technology provides an important new mechanism for advancing international learning experiences and sharing of common conceptual frames. "Bridging the Hemispheres Through the Use of Technology: International Collaboration in Social Work Training" by John Rautenbach and Christine Black-Hughes discusses how technology was used to introduce middle-class social work students from the Midwestern United States to Xhosa social work students largely from financially disadvantaged backgrounds at a university on the east coast of South Africa. The article focuses on how technology was used to prepare U.S. social work students for their study abroad experiences and oversee students' experiences while they completed a practicum in South Africa. Their experiences indicate the potential for social media, e-mail, Skype, and other Internet programs to facilitate and enhance global learning and experiences abroad and highlights the technological hurdles we are likely to encounter--and overcome--with patience, determination, and flexibility.

Advances made by the profession globally also are important, notably recent definitions and standards negotiated by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). These include a global definition of social work (IASSW, 2000); a Statement of Ethical Principles (IFSW, 2004); Global Standards for the Education and Training of the Social Work Profession (IASSW/IFSW, 2004); and most recently, The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development Commitment to Action, outlined by IASSW, IFSW, and the International Council on Social Welfare (2012). These suggest a maturation of the profession and its international bodies. The documents also offer new perspectives on the continuing debates over the limits of universality in our context-driven profession and provide potential guidance for educators developing international curricula and programs.

The cultural tensions and everyday social experiences of two social work students placed in 8-month clinical internships are described within a framework of collectivism versus individualism by Joanne Corbin in "Ethical Tensions and Dilemmas Experienced in a Northern Ugandan Social Work Internship." As Corbin points out, international social work documents guide social worker practices differently, as evidenced by an emphasis on collectivism in the IFSW Code of Ethics compared to the NASW Code of Ethics, which frames issues as evolving from the individual to a larger social sphere. Corbin's article challenges us to think about the boundaries of common social work practice worldwide as we seek to balance social work practice with cultural and social practices locally. In 1980 Werner Boehm was able to identify only 12 courses on international topics in U.S. MSW programs. BSW programs offered little or no international content in social work courses, although students may have had exposure through supporting social sciences. Social work programs now offer a range of international courses, modules, or learning segments infused in required courses in addition to opportunities for internships and other study abroad experiences. A modest number of schools offer specializations at the master's level.

The articles selected for this issue address many of the efforts to enhance education for social work in the globalized environment. They reflect the advancements in our knowledge of the effect of globalization of social work curricula in the United States and abroad and the wide diversity in models of integrating global learning in the social work curriculum. Also notable are the areas of omission. It is not possible to determine whether these reflect true gaps in activity and scholarship or simply the timing and reach of the call for papers. Nonetheless, the gaps do suggest areas for increased attention. Among these areas are international content within doctoral education; MSW specializations in international or global practice and their intended and achieved outcomes; content on working with international populations; skill and practice preparation related to international social work; preparation for and engagement in global issue advocacy; contributions of social work international programs to university-wide initiatives and vice versa; funding, language skills, and other barriers to student and faculty exchanges; career opportunities for and preparation of social work practitioners interested in working abroad; faculty development and the role of faculty in promoting global content through faculty exchanges; and collaborative efforts as researchers and lecturers.

We hope that this publication reinforces the critical importance of cultural context in social work and in doing so challenges us to think about the commonality among social work education and practice methods worldwide and the forces around the world that continue to inform and challenge social work practice. Toward this end, we have included The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: Commitment to Action, a statement of vision and action plan launched by the three international professional organizations at Social Work Day at the United Nations in 2012. The agenda was developed by IASSW, IFSW, and the International Council on Social Welfare. It calls for the profession to move forward with a common mission and vision to address social issues globally and locally. The Global Agenda also suggests a plan for social work education. In addition to being essential reading for professors and students, the Global Agenda also can be used to evaluate current offerings in international social work and develop new opportunities in teaching, exchange, advocacy, and study abroad.

We appreciate the opportunity to serve as coeditors of this special topic issue of JSWE to showcase the innovative and hard work of our colleagues around the world--30% of the authors are based in universities outside the United States. Globalization has changed the social work curriculum here in the United States and globally and in doing so has strengthened and challenged our connections as a profession worldwide. Globalization has forced us to reevaluate the context of our ideas, knowledge, and practices and dared us to reach higher whether we practice locally or abroad.


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Hill, B., & Green, M. (2008). A guide to internationalization for chief academic officers. Washington, DC: American Council on Education.

International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). (2000). Definition of social work. Retrieved from category& layout=blog&id=26&Itemid=51

International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). (2004). Ethics in social work: Statement of principles. Retrieved from

IASSW/IFSW. (2004). Global standards for the education and training of the social work profession. Retrieved from http://cdn.ifswoorg/assets/ifsw_65044-3.pdf

IASSW/ICSW/IFSW. (2012). The global agenda for social work and social development commitment to action. Retrieved from

Tye, Ko A. (1999). Global education: A worldwide movement. Orange, CA: Interdependence Press.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2009). Communique from the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education. Retrieved from FINAL%20COMMUNIQUE%20WCHE%202009.pdf

United States Department of Homeland Security. (2011). Yearbook of immigration statistics 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics.

Wilson, M. (2012). Globalization. In L. M. Healy and R. J. Link (Eds.) Handbook of international social work: Human rights, development, and the global profession (pp. 16-23). New York NY: Oxford University Press.

Shirley Gatenio Gabel

Fordham University

Lynne M. Healy

University of Connecticut

Shirley Gatenlo Gabel is associate professor at Fordham University. Lynne M. Healy is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut and codirector of the Center for International Social Work Studies.

Address correspondence to Shirley Gatenio-Gabel, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023; e-mail:
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Title Annotation:GUEST EDITORIAL
Author:Gabel, Shirley Gatenio; Healy, Lynne M.
Publication:Journal of Social Work Education
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Dec 22, 2012
Previous Article:Letter to the editor.
Next Article:Development of social work education in China: Background, current status, and prospects.

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