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Global standards

IASSW November 2003

At the joint IASSW/IFSW Conference in Montreal, Canada in July 2000 The International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) set up a joint initiative called the Global Minimum Standards Committee. A draft document was produced, subject to consultation and a number of reviews. The current version informs ongoing debate with regard to the development of global standards. An extract on the core curricula is reproduced here.


In respect core curricula, schools should aspire toward the following standards deemed to be acceptable at the global level:

4.1 An identification of, and selection for inclusion in the programme, curricula as determined by local, national and/or regional needs and priorities.

4.2 A description of the objectives of each of the core curricula components, an explanation of their sequencing and, if the course or module is not taught in the school, an identification of the department responsible for teaching it.

4.3 Notwithstanding the provision of 4.1 there are certain core curricula that may be seen to be universally applicable. Thus the school should ensure that student social workers, by the end of their exit level Social Work qualification, have exposure to the following core curricula which are organised into four conceptual components:

4.3.1 Domain of Social Work

  • A critical understanding of how socio-structural inadequacies, discrimination, oppression, and social, political and economic injustices impact human functioning and development at all levels, including the global.
  • Knowledge of human behaviour and the social environment, with particular emphasis on the person-in-environment transaction, life-span development and the interaction among biological, psychological, socio-structural and cultural factors in shaping human development and behaviour.
  • Knowledge of the social welfare policies and services of the locality, country and/or region.
  • A critical understanding of social work's origins and purposes.
  • Understanding of country specific social work origins and development.
  • Sufficient knowledge of related occupations and professions to facilitate inter-professional collaboration and teamwork.

4.3.2 Domain of the Social Worker:

  • The development of the critically self-reflective practitioner, who is able to practice within the value perspective of the social work profession.
  • The recognition of the relationship between personal life experiences and personal value systems and social work practice.
  • The appraisal of national, regional and/or international social work codes of ethics and their applicability to context specific realities.
  • Preparation of social workers within a holistic biopsychosocial spiritual framework, with generalist skills to enable practice in a range of contexts with diverse ethnic, cultural and racial groups, and with both men and women.

4.3.3 Methods of Practice:

  • Practice skills in, and knowledge of, assessment and intervention for the purposes of developmental, protective, preventive and/or therapeutic intervention.
  • The application of social work values, ethical principles, knowledge and skills to confront inequality, and social, political and economic injustices.
  • Knowledge of, and skills in, social work research, including ethical use of relevant research paradigms, and critical appreciation of the use of research in social work practice.
  • Supervised fieldwork education, with due consideration to the provisions of Item 3 above.

4.3.4 Paradigm of the Profession:

Of particular current salience to social work education, training and practice, are the following epistemological frameworks (which are not mutually exclusive) that should inform the core curricula:

  • An acknowledgement and recognition of the dignity, worth and the uniqueness of all human beings.
  • Recognition of the inter-connectedness that exists within and across all systems at micro, mezzo and macro levels.
  • An emphasis on the importance of advocacy and changes in socio-structural, political and economic conditions that disempower, marginalize and exclude people.
  • The capacity-building and empowerment of individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities through a human-centred developmental approach.
  • Problem-solving and anticipatory socialisation though an understanding of the normative developmental life cycle, and expected life tasks and crises in relation to age related influences, with due consideration to socio-cultural expectations.
  • The assumption, identification and recognition of strengths and potential of all human beings.
  • An appreciation and respect for diversity in relation to race, culture, religion, ethnicity, linguistic origin, gender, sexual orientation and differential abilities.

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