The Controversy over the Examination for Professional Social Workers

Several defects of the examination at this time were pointed out: it was not effective, lacked validity, and disqualified those without a social work educational background. Also, there were other issues such as controversies over candidature, low admission rates, non-flexible test questions, and the qualification and ratio of examiners. Besides, the licence system was not working smoothly and this problem was ignored (Chou, 2002; Ho, 2004, Hsiao, 2005; Huang, 2006; Huo, 2007). Following these issues, questions arose regarding the examination system, candidature, classification of licence, professional continuing education, professional social workers in private practice, ethics, self-discipline, and so on (Lin, 2002b; Chou, 2002; Hsiao, 2005; Lin and Shen, 2008), yet the situation where the old system did not work and caused disagreement in the social work field persisted.

In other words, the certification system is just like a screen, the function of which is to tell the 'qualified' from the 'unqualified' (C.S. Wang, 2003). It also causes stratification, and conflict between these two types of social workers (Lin, 2001). Hsiao Huei Ju (2005) thinks the disunion appeared between those who are for and against the examination, qualified or unqualified, with or without related educational background, and so on. Some scholars also think that the examination system not only fails to bring about the expected positive effects, but makes social workers spend their time studying for exams in order to transfer to government positions, leaving behind their promises to the mission of social worker (Chou, 2002). This system will very likely just create a dependency on examinations (Yu, 1998; Chen, 2003).

Also, the controversy showed the conflict between the academic and practical fields. Currently, those who are given the right to design the exams are scholars recognized by the national system; in other words, practitioner social workers have to pass an examination designed by academics to qualify for certification. The gap and paradox between the practice and theories of social work has become evident. Moreover, the exam-led system was discovered to have dominated not

12 Please refer to the master's thesis from the Department of Sociology, Ching Hua University, 'Formation of Consensus or Setback for Imagination? An Inspection of Professional Sociology Regarding the Social Work Issue in the Society' by Hsiao Hsin Bing, 2006. only academia but also the practical aspect of social work in that the academics possess the products of legal knowledge such as 'credits', 'courses' and 'degrees'. Such products grew to form a sort of 'power' which increasingly commercialized the nature of the social work profession, and knowledge products such as 'inservice studies' and 'continuing studies' were promoted to the practical fields, with practitioner social workers as the main consumer (Wang, 2006).

Following are several thoughts from professionals in the fields of social work

in Taiwan:

The promulgation of [the] professional Social Worker Act can't necessarily elevate professional social workers' professional status, neither does it ensure the right of the clients. (Lin, 2001)

[The] Profession Social Worker Act has negative influence on social work's

environment. (Chou, 2002)

The rapid expansion in the social work education will … impact and influence

… the profession of social work. (Lin, 2002a)

The 'skill adapting and knowledge passing' stage during professionalization is gradually becoming a competition over the inner power of profession. (C.S. Wang, 2003)

The low admission rate of social worker has caused the opposition of the academia and the practitioner. (TASW, 2004)

More worrying issues were presented including the following: the over expansion of social work–related faculties in universities and colleges; the underdevelopment of academic models and research communities of social work; the professionpositioning issue of social work (brought about by the similarity between and overlapping of related professions); the structural gap in the partnership between the academic and practice fields; the evaluation and inspection of the professional social worker examination; the lack of openness in the professional social work organizations; the massive and complex workload in both administrative affairs and social work practices; and insufficient indemnification in local social work systems – the accountability and performance of social work relies on the manageability of data and an unequal power structure, and it lacks a related balance mechanism (Wang, 2002; C.S. Wang, 2003; Li, 2005; Hsu, 2004; Chen et al., 2005; Huang and Hsiao 2006; Huang et al., 2002; Hsiao 2005; compiled from Wang, 2008).

It has been concluded that amendments to the Social Worker Act are necessary in order to solve the crisis mentioned above and realize an authentic professionalization. Professional continuing education will allow social workers to provide specified services with professional quality.

In effect, these arguments highlight several issues: the disparity between the law and the real world, which unexpectedly triggered a series of controversies in the
social work field; the heterogeneity among social work–related parties;14 criticism of phenomena such as exam subjects dominating school education; school education transforming to align with cramming for exams due to the certification exam system, and the decline of professional autonomy in social work, which is becoming dependent on the government (Kao, 2003; Tao, 1999; Chen, 2003; Hsiao, 2005).

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