A Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with One Step: The Development of Culturally Relevant Social Work Education and Fieldwork Practice in China
There is an old Chinese saying that ‘a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step’. Though the path of social work’s development in China has not been smooth and it still has a long way to go, our older generation started by taking the first step. Today what we have accomplished is only part of the marathon of social work’s development in China, which is traced in this chapter. Specifically, we describe the development of an MSW programme in China undertaken in partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University. A characteristic feature of social work education in China is its close relationship with the Central Government which has played, and is still playing, a pivotal role in the planning and development of social policies and social services in China. The voluntary sector is only just emerging and its contribution to social welfare development has been relatively insignificant in the past. Moreover, the fact that most social work graduates are employed by the various government ministries means that social work education has to work closely with the Central Government in both its educational and service development endeavors. In recognizing the reality of the central role of the government in social welfare policy and service development, the social work curricula of most Chinese social work training institutions place a heavy emphasis on knowledge and skills pertaining to working with or within the government bureaucracy. The managerial and administrative roles expected of social work graduates are, therefore, much more prominent in China than in most other countries, and the qualities expected of the graduates are developed accordingly (Lu 1996; Xiong 1999).