Resources and Structure
A good social work program will require the proper and adequate supply of resources. One of the most important variables in effective teaching is the classroom size. A ratio of 1:18 staff–students should be attempted by the universities. At a
minimum, 80 per cent of the teaching staff must have a social work academic qualification that is recognized by the government, along with contemporary practice experience. Consequently, only these staff can teach the core courses.
In terms of the structure of the program, to be deemed as viable it should have at least five full-time staff of which three must have a degree in social work at the master's level. Following the IFSW guidelines, the head of the program, be s/he the dean, director, or chairperson, must have at least a master's degree in social work (an MSW). To further improve the program, evaluation of the program must be conducted by an external and internal assessor periodically. The MCSWE will act as the internal assessor and a reputable social work academician from outside the country will be the external assessor.
Students Professional Development
Student intake should be governed by the university's policy, and their admission criteria should be in line with the program's objectives. Students' aptitude and attitude must be taken into consideration; s/he for instance should be evaluated for any judgemental traits and ethical issues. On the other hand, students should never be discriminated against based on race, religion, culture, gender, physical impairment, or sexual orientation. Special intake should be allowed for those who might not have the necessary academic qualifications but do have more than sufficient work experience in related areas of social work. Special intake should also be allocated to minority ethnic groups and disabled persons. The social work program should facilitate students' cognitive and affective development of competency and a system of mentoring and supervision should be established to assist in the students' total learning process.
Staff Professional Development
Social work academicians need to retool themselves periodically with the latest knowledge. They should be given support and encouragement to attend workshops, seminars, and conferences both locally and internationally. These experiences are also an avenue for them to establish networking, which is vital for exchanges of ideas and collaboration. Incentives should be given to those who present papers rather than just attending as participants. Additionally, apart from undertaking individual research, staff should collaborate in the research arena both at the local and international stage.
Membership of the Accreditation Body
The main responsibility of the accreditation body is to accredit social work programs. As a responsible entity, a dependable membership must be ensured. The following people should make up the membership: two members from each
university, two members from the National Association of Social Workers, and two members from relevant government agencies (Malaysian Welfare Department, Ministry of Education of Higher Learning, and from the Health Ministry). Their task is to ensure that all of the above-mentioned objectives vis-à-vis the curriculum, contents, and structure of each university are accomplished.
Current Challenges for Recognition
Social work as a profession is still relatively unknown to the public. Many still see it as welfare-related work (giving charity and dole-out by ministers' wives), or volunteer work (gotong royong). There is a paradox among the policymakers; while they are concerned with the affairs of social issues in the country and see the need for social work programs, there exists a certain vagueness of understanding of what social work education and practice really entails. If social work is truly understood by the authorities, the Social Workers' Act would have long since been tabled and approved in the Malaysian Parliament.
Despite the late start, in April 2010 the Malaysian government approved a proposal by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to establish the Social Workers' Act. Among the significant components of the act are the following: establishing a social work council to regulate social work practitioners and educators; ensuring the Public Service Commission and Public Service Department recruit qualified social workers into the public sector; and upgrading the Social Institute of Malaysia and other accredited institutions to offer social work courses at certificate and diploma levels. With the establishment of the act, the job designation of 'social worker' hopefully will be assigned in schools, rehabilitation institutions, and prisons, just to name a few. As of now there is no official job designation for social workers in the public sector. Instead, those individuals who do the social work task are being given titles such as counsellors, welfare officers, and the like. One of the most unfortunate situations in Malaysia today is that most social work jobs are being given to those who do not have formal social work education. The problem occurs in part due to the recruitment process of the Public Service Department and the Public Service Commission (government agencies that set rules and criteria for employment in the public sector). The main criterion for recruitment is a candidate's university grade point average. Priority is given to graduates that have a high grade point average. For example, if a student majoring in history has a higher grade point average than a social work major, and both are competing for a social work job, the former will get the job.
The implication of this recruitment practice is dire: clients of that history 'social worker' will be victimized by the latter's lack of social work education. It actually renders him/her incompetent and inefficient in trying to serve the client. Despite being given in-house training, it is no substitute for three or four years of formal social work education. To remedy the problem, these agencies have spent huge amounts of money to train these non–social workers by university academicians. A crash course will be given with the hope that it will replace the missing three
to four years of formal social work education. Another ill effect of this unsound recruitment practice is the increasing unemployment and underemployment of social work graduates.
Things are no better in the private sector. It is a well-known fact that social work is not a high-paying job. Hence, the private sector does not attract fresh graduates to seek employment with them simply because of the salary factor. Social workers need to take care of their basic needs as well, especially new graduates who are about to enter the job market.