Assam: Sociology, Social Work & APSC’s Mistake
Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) has been under constant criticism in recent times due to various issues related to conducting exams. One fresh allegation is that the examination that was conducted for the post of CDPO (Child Development Project Officer) which was expected to be held in 2019 but was postponed due to various reasons was finally held on 8th November 2020.
Social Work was one optional subject out of the total 11 optional subjects for the examination. It came to light that the social work optional paper was based on the sociology course syllabus. While this “mistake” has been debated, condemned and discussed; it brings in many questions that need to be highlighted. The questions that I would like to put forward are as follows:
1. How can the concerned authority make such a “mistake”? Does this “mistake” refer to the lack of competent and eligible people in setting the question paper for the given subject?
2. Does this “mistake” reflect the failure to differentiate between sociology and social work whereas both the subjects are mentioned as specific optional papers?
3. An official notice was issued dated 9th November 2020 in view of the raised issue (Notice No. 29PSC/CON/Exam-37/2018-2019) which mentions that the exam for the same post with the optional paper in question would be held afresh. Unfortunately, even the official notice mentions “SOCIAL WORKS” instead of Social Work which brings to doubt the attention that the issue demands.
The investment in terms of economic, emotional, physical, and time that has been made for the exam by each candidate appearing for the Social Work optional paper has been wasted and insulted further by the notice issued on 9th November 2020. It is saddening to witness and experience such a casual attitude. It has reflected the negligence on part of the administration as well as the concerned department. The money that would be used to re-conduct the exam could have been used for better causes.
Despite a prominent historical timeline in the country and providing ample of career opportunities, Social Work has been struggling to establish its individuality as a professional course and cases of such misconduct defeat the very positive spirit of the profession.
Social work is one of the youngest professional courses in India which has been expanding with time.
In India, professional social work owes its origin to short-term training courses offered for people who are willing to volunteer for social services. In 1936, Social Work education was formally recognized and offered in Sir Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work which is now known as Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Since then, India has witnessed a steady growth in various state and central universities, along with private and public-private institutes, offering courses on professional social work.
At present, the post-graduation course of social work is offered in approximately 500 institutions in India. Out of these, 260 are private institutes, 120 are public and the remaining are public-private ownership institutions.
In Assam, Assam University, Silchar started the department of Social Work in 1997 which offers both BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) and MSW (Master’s in Social Work) along with Ph.D. in Social Work. The Centre for Social Work Studies (CSWS) was established only in 2010 in Dibrugarh University that offers MSW and Ph.D. Tezpur University established the Social Work Department in 2014. TISS Guwahati off-campus was set up by the government of Assam and the Ministry of Department of North East Region, Government of India. It has been offering Diploma Programme in Community Organization and Development Practices since 2009. A full-fledged academic programme was offered since 2012 with Social work only at the post-graduation level along with a dozen private institutions providing BSW and MSW courses across Assam.
Thus each year, hundreds of students qualify as professional social workers in Assam which further questions the casual attitude of the authority on the miscalculation behind a state level examination for an honourable post.
It is disheartening that society still finds it difficult to differentiate between social work and sociology while thousands of students are being trained in the subject even as they dream to change the society they live in.
(The author has completed her masters in social work and is currently pursuing PH.D. in the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health from JNU, New Delhi. The views expressed in the article are her own.)