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Project context and rationale

1. The Social And Economic Context of Vietnam and its Needs

Recognizing that poverty can hinder sustainable development, the government of Vietnam has had poverty reduction as a central goal of its reform policies for the past 10 years and poverty rates in VN have fallen significantly from 51% in 1992 to 30% in 1997. However, this improvement has not been uniform and disparities have widened between the urban and rural areas, between different regions of Vietnam and amongst various groups of population.

To improve social equity, Vietnam needs not only more social workers (SWs), but SWs with knowledge and skills suitable to the demands of the open-market economy. To do so, they plan to increase both the quality and quantity of the SWs by:
  • upgrading secondary level of SWs to university level;
  • providing additional training for current SWs working with vulnerable groups in rural areas.

2. Project Impacts

The main expected interrelated impacts from this project include to

  • improve the quality of social workers for rural Vietnam and
  • enhance the capacity of the ULSA to sustain the social work training program.

These impacts will be addressed through the following outcomes:

  • To jointly develop and conduct a program of study at the level of Bachelor of Social Work to upgrade the SW teachers of ULSA.
  • To prepare selected VN Social Workers at the Master's level to be trainers who will extend the upgrading of Social Workers for rural areas, thus sustaining the program following completion of this project.
  • To jointly develop a SW Practice Centre at ULSA so that the vulnerable groups can directly benefit from the outcome of training.
  • To heighten awareness of the importance of research in Social Work and to initiate research linkage between MUNSSW and ULSA.
  • To disseminate knowledge and experience gained from the project.
  • To ensure the development of appropriate infrastructure to further sustain SW in rural VN.
  • To jointly establish a process of continuous evaluation for the project's lifetime and facilitate midpoint evaluation.

3. Partner Institution ULSA

The ULSA operated by the Ministry of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) is the only school in Vietnam that trains social workers at the university level and provide continuing education for the currently working ones. Despite its limited resources, it has graduated over 27,000 social workers at the secondary technical level since its opening in 1961. The project will improve ULSA's ability in HRD and meet VN's national plan for poverty reduction through a coordinated approach involving:

  • A ten course program (or 8 month) in SW in VN: The trainees will consist of current SW teachers at the ULSA who will in turn teach other SWs currently working or new SW students.
  • Master's study in VN for selected SW teachers who have achieved the BSW.
  • Two month course at MUN for selected SWs who have completed the ten course program in VN. This experience provides them needed exposure to western social services and western post secondary educational environment, as well as its methods of teaching/learning. At the same time, MUN faculty and students will benefit from exchanging ideas and knowledge with these students.
  • A program of workshops in VN: to update practicing SWs working in rural areas on various topics related to the project. Topics include: training the trainers, communication/counseling, women's health issues, family violence, child/elder abuse, health promotion, nutrition, and others. These trainers will in turn disseminate this knowledge to vulnerable groups and people working with them, such as women's union, teachers, police force, health care volunteers, youth groups.
  • Establishment of the Social Work Practice Centre (SWPC): this facility enables faculty and students to apply the knowledge and skills learned in class to directly benefit people in the community. Health promotion materials will also be distributed to clients attending the SWPC.
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