Tan Ngoh Tiong, PhD, RSW, ACSW
Dean, School of Human Development and Social Services
New Frontiers of International
Social Work: Is There an East–West Divide?
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
- Rudyard Kipling, 1889
Asia is rapidly rising economically and also as a sociopolitical leader of the world. Social work has progressed, albeit along different tangents, in different parts of Asia. The development of social work in Asia varies greatly by country, very much depending on the sociopolitical context.
The value of social work is increasingly recognized in Asia but not in the same way as Western social work. Social work in Asia deals concretely with social issues and contributes toward resolving social problems arising from the developmental journeys of each nation. Though sharing some common professional values and knowledge bases with the West, social work in Asia has in its training and pursuit already developed distinct characteristics.
It is expected that Western models of social work must also change along with the new ways society is organized. New boundaries and markers, as guideposts for the profession, are needed for social work to respond effectively to the changing world. The core mission of social work should remain constant, but new and dynamic forms of international social work will evolve in the changing global landscape.