Social Work Education
The current structure of social work education was established in 2001 and
includes five levels:
1. Doctoral program (minimum 4 years),
2. Master's program (1.5–2 years),
3. Bachelor's program (4 years),
4. specialized training, and
5. in-service training.
The teaching and scholarly skills of social workers have increased significantly over recent years, and there are now more than 800 students in social work degree programs. In comparison to early 2000, the number of social work faculty and students has doubled. The majority of social work students come directly from secondary schools and have little or no experience in social services. Each year the number of social work students as well as the demand for quality education increase.
The first social work degree program of baccalaureate level was accredited in 2010. Mongolian social work curricula have been adapted primarily from the American, Russian, and German models, depending on the mission and goals of the university and department (Oyut-Erdene and Ulziitungalag, 2004). For example, the Mongolia State University of Education curriculum is modelled on the US scheme with input from Japanese and Indian programs. In addition to the curriculum being a good fit, MSUE obtained resources such as textbooks, visiting lecturers, and training materials from the Unite States. The Mongolian University of Science and Technology, on the other hand, is influenced by the Russian model, and the National University of Mongolia's model has mainly been Germaninfluenced since the German Academic Exchange Service funded the curriculum development and continuing education project from 2001 to 2009.
In-service training opportunities for social workers differ by sectors, rural or urban settings, as well as capacities and other specific features of a particular agency. Training, retraining, and professional upgrading systems for social workers are waiting on more developments. The Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor (newly structured as the Ministry of Population Development and Social Welfare since 2012) has coordinated the training activities including short-term training for the preparation of social workers and retraining of previously prepared social workers. Social welfare sector social workers have had multistage training and received a social work textbook and other resources.
However, social workers lack social work resources including handbooks, guidelines, and professional newspapers or journals to facilitate their in-service training efforts. The development of teaching and learning resources that reflect Mongolian conditions is seen as crucial.
Conclusion: Challenges and Issues, and Future Trends of Mongolian Social Work
In 2012 Mongolian social workers celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of the professional establishment of social work. Developments in Mongolian social work to date were mainly responsive in nature and are characterized as multidimensional. Development processes required political, legal, cultural, social, educational, and
structural changes and commitments. Looking back over the last 15 years, we can conclude that the current system of social work in Mongolia is developing in line with international developments.
Nationwide and international factors influence the development of social work as a profession and service system and transitional changes in Mongolian society during the 1990s established the background for professional social work development in the country. Economic, political, cultural, and social factors caused changes favoring the birth of the social work profession. Currently, there are social workers in education, social welfare, child protection, local government, the detention system, and humanitarian and voluntary organizations. Provisions on social work services and social workers are embedded in laws including the Law on Social Welfare, Law on Education, and Law Against Domestic Violence. However, the challenge still remains to distinguish between social welfare and social work, and psychology and social work. Charity is perceived as social work by some people. In other words, there is a need to educate people's understanding of which professional social work offer is necessary.
Conceptual understanding is the key for proper social work development in the country – developmental social work was defined as a main conceptual framework for the development of social work in Mongolia in 1997 – however, concepts on developmental social work have been reflected poorly in training and service programs (Askeland, 2004).The field is in demand for social work job opportunities and qualified professionals. There is a need to expand services for special target groups including persons with severe forms of disabilities, the elderly without family support, unsupervised children, prostitutes, victims of trafficking, domestic violence and child abuse, persons with mental health problems, alcoholics and substance abusers, and persons affected by HIV/AIDS and to train professionals to work with these vulnerable groups.
Mongolian social workers are striving for better recognition of their roles in the processes of poverty reduction, promoting social equality, and fostering social development in the country. While there are an increasing number of social workers, social problems are not reducing by much. Each year about 200 social work graduates enter the labor market and thousands are working as social workers. People expect that since there are professionals to deal with social problems then they should solve all the social problems; however, social problems can be addressed in a number of ways. Providing more social workers alone will not solve many problems. There is a need to change legislation, public attitudes, and the structure of organizations. Adequate interventions require addressing problems such as insufficient cooperation of social workers from different sectors, lack of official mechanisms on referral and networking services, and a high unemployment rate among graduates of the social work schools, and so on.
Social workers in Mongolia are criticized for mainly performing administrative and supervisory duties but the agencies responsible for supervision of social workers have low capacities to perform this task because senior level officers have no or little knowledge and skills in social work, and the effectiveness and
quality of social work has not been evaluated properly. Development of national standard requirements on social work practices for working with various groups of clients, and introducing a range of social work assessment tools that can enhance decision making and provide consistency in service delivery is deemed important (Verdi, 2003). Namdaldagva et al. (2010) call for development of evidence-based practices for the Mongolian context underscoring:
There is a great need to systematically analyze a variety of social, economic, emotional, and health-related problems in order to determine the appropriate interventions and policies needed to effectively address these needs and improve the overall quality of people's life. (Namdaldagva et al., 2010)
Although social workers have a high load of clients, social work as a profession is among the lowest-paid. On the other hand, provisions for social welfare recipients are also low and the social welfare allowances are not raised to come up to inflation levels. Thus, the government works for improvement of policies and programs to consider inflation factors and the market price as well as to address issues of work compensation and benefits for social workers.
The Mongolian social work community has been actively cooperating with international social work communities and universities and schools towards strengthening the capacity of social workers, improving service provision and teaching and curricula. Further, the institutional capacity of Mongolian social work professional associations needs to strengthen to foster professional development in the country as well as to keep up with international developments in the field. Their collaboration is essential to promote the development of this profession, solve common problems faced by social workers, identify values and ethics of Mongolian social work, and improve the integration of different sectors.
Although social work professional services are new to Mongolia, they have been expanded with new forms. Social work services in Mongolia range from direct services to vulnerable groups of people, delivering social welfare services entitled by existing laws, providing people with opportunities to improve their quality of life using community resources and services to running advocacy and awareness raising activities among communities and people in order to change policies and structures leading to violations of human rights and vulnerability.
Social work became a common profession in Mongolia over the past 15 years. Today professional associations and social workers and researchers face the need to engage more in discussions on the development of social work in Mongolia. These discussions involve broad areas from enhancing public understanding of social workers and increasing professional identity and reputation in the country to other social work education and practice issues.
In order to foster national social work developments, Mongolian social workers emphasize the importance of learning from the international developments of the profession through collaboration with social work colleagues from countries of the Asia and the Pacific region as well as other parts of the world.