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Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Social Work Curriculum

Post by Social Work in a Latin American Context student Carissa Franklin

When talking about the UNAM curriculum in comparison to the curriculum in the U.S., there are similarities, but also differences. At UNAM, you begin in the School of Social Work with classes as soon as you enter. There are nine semesters of only social work classes to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. In the U.S., that equates to about 4 ½ years, of just social work! In the U.S., in order to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work there is at most 2 ½ years of social work classes, which is about 4 semesters. You may ask – what happened to their general classes? Well, those come in what we would call high school and what they label as prepatoria. I feel it is a more holistic and complete system when you look at it from the levels that come before the university. Here is a picture of their class schedule by semester. You can see they have classes in social problems, social investigation, rural problems, social movements, public health, family structure, and practicum. The classes are color coordinated by subject. Yellow is social/historical area, gold is social policy/needs, orange is person in the environment, and maroon is methodology and practicum in social work. In my opinion, the curriculum here is comprehensive.

Upcoming UNAM curriculum changes will affect practicum sites. It will be to focus on projects of intervention with one population at the three levels they work at. This is for more skills for the job market and not isolated skills and specialization in Bachelor’s degree, when in the U.S. we specialize at the Master’s level. For instance, street kids could be the population that a social worker can focus on. The first level is community so the social workers would become familiar with the problem in a certain community, working to understand and find resources. At the next level – regional – the social worker finds other communities with this problem and asks, ¨how can institutions help me?¨ The last level – specialization – the social worker would work with institutions that help with their specific problem. This is the biggest change the social work curriculum would go through.

They are also looking at changing around some classes. In comparison to the curriculum we see in the U.S., when looking at the School of Social Work curriculum from UNAM, which classes are programs in the U.S. not offering? When our group saw some of the classes they were taking, we wished we had the opportunity to take some. We also questioned some of the changes they were making in regards to how the practicum will soon function. Is it better to stay with the same population throughout a practicum experience or multiple populations? There were a lot of questions from our group because this system in general, and with the proposed changes, makes it so different from our system. For our practicum sites, we usually focus on individuals, then start focusing on communities and broader. For a practicum and in relation to work done in social work settings, should practicum experience during undergraduate go from broader – for instance, community work –  to narrow, individual work, or should it be opposite? I’ve proposed these questions for others to think about when it comes to the social work degree and curriculum in our two different settings.

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