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Accreditation of Social Work Programs
Drawing on the author’s experience of teaching social work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this paper will interrogate the pervasive question, significant within academic circles and the wider public discourse, on the issue of values and how they are framed or not by their relevant cultural contexts. This is a critical period in the history of the development of social work in the UAE where the International Association of Schools of Social Work subjected the first professional social work education and training programme offered to the rigour of a review process. Currently most social work programmes are evaluated against Western social work accreditation frameworks and quality assurance processes. While this practice may be appropriate in certain contexts, in others, such as in the Arab world, a more authentic frame of reference is required. To this end, the frame of reference lies in the Islamic prophetic traditions and culture, uniquely characteristic of the Arab world in the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC). It not only provides the backdrop to the ideological context for practice and education but also for quality assurance purposes as in the case of accreditation. A quick perusal of global accreditations of social work programmes reveals intense scholarly debates about what should constitute a dynamic curricula, necessary resources, ideology, administrative needs, processes and structure of social work programmes. Given that all of these criteria satisfy the conditions for accreditation, there is still ample opportunity within the different socio-cultural contexts for variations in the curricula of social work programmes being offered universally. There is little doubt, despite the recent debates on the accreditation processes, that the primary goal is to ensure quality programmes and competent preparation for social work practice. In this paper the author will argue that while subscribing to this academic rigour, a paradigm shift is imperative to understand what constitutes culturally sensitive social work education and training. This paper will demonstrate that the values and ethics rooted in the ideology of the Arab World should determine and influence academic and practice paradigms.