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(Alternate Title: SW1101E – This should be mandatory for all primary/secondary students. Also, welcome to the other side where everything’s less glamorous but you find a lot of heart.)
After a fairly positive experience taking a Social Work module, I thought it prudent to properly take the intro module for this major to clear a U/E. After all, I had a few friends that hailed from this humble major and whatever they talked about always seemed fascinating. So with one U/E this sem to clear, I signed up for it and waited to see what would come of it.
What I expected
Hm…I suppose a broad overview of Singapore as a whole with a greater focus on helping the vulnerable members. I mean, you’re not going to see much social work for the well-adjusted, wealthy members of a society, right? Kinda like what Jesus said when He said “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And so in a similar manner one would consider the vulnerable members of society less in a sociological sense and more of a ‘what can be done’ sense.
What I got
A surprisingly (and unsurprisingly, in retrospect) heartwarming module that went into great depth and breadth for a 1k module. Everything from social work across different life stages (children, youth, families, elderly/palliative) to within specific themes (mental health, addictions, abuse) was well covered. Aside from being the cynical PS student there (which I did a great job of and probably inadvertently reinforced some stereotypes in the process), I learnt a great deal about social problems and issues from the ground up. This is especially important for any PS student that has done public policy modules: From the top, problems look fairly simple. From the bottom, they are anything but. Of course many know this but that’s where this mod excels: giving you detailed insight into precisely why these problems are tricky to resolve beyond an individual. And so, one leaves the module with a much greater appreciation (if that were even possible) for the risk of emotional burnout social workers face in the process of regularly discharging their duties towards the most vulnerable members of society.
I took this mod under Prof Esther and I must say she’s an excellent Prof for this module. She brings to this introductory module a wealth of experience reflecting her varied experiences as a past social worker and these insights/stories really help the students to learn beyond the classroom. Unfortunately not all of her wisdom is understood or appreciated by young adults feeling at the prime of their lives, but some of it hopefully trickles down not just into their heads, but their hearts. Even in tutorials one sees how she ably manages herself and the class (in the case of unexpected chaos resulting from arrival and distribution of pizza, she remained composed and got discussion continued without raising her voice) and go ‘ooo, so those are some sweet people skills’ in their heads. As evidenced by her attempts (usually successful) to memorize the names of everyone in her tutorial group (she really makes an effort and it shows), the stereotypical social worker definitely has a heart for others.
[Course Materials?] All PDF readings, yay for saving money!
Assessment & Workload
One is assessed as follows:
- Online Forum and Tutorial Participation: ???%. I can’t seem to find a syllabus detailing the exact breakdown so I’ll just put ??? for all. This tutorial participation consists of both talking in tutorials and completing the preparatory notes for each alternate tutorial as requested by the Prof. Not too difficult but one generally has to clear some minor readings before attending each tutorial along with occasional posting on the forum about comments or questions relating to covered material.
- Field Trip Visits and Reflection Paper (Assignment One): ???%. This is a highly anticipated component of the course that brings students out to actual family service centers. Operational social workers then give them a presentation and the opportunity to walk around the facilities before one goes home and writes a reflection paper based on their experiences. Quite interesting but a possible timesink as one will need to spend around six hours for two trips (including time to commute there) to their allocated service center.
- Newspaper Essay (Assignment Two): ???%. One is tasked with finding information within the past year about a particular topic of interest and writing about it. This is more tricky than it sounds since if one picks too narrow a topic, not much information can be found with a year’s timeframe. Too broad, however, and one’s paper will lack focus. All in all, this was one of the more challenging papers to write even for someone used to writing papers because of the limitations set.
- Finals: ???%. At 40 MCQ questions (1.5 marks each) and 4C2 short essay questions (20 marks each), this seems deceptively easy. The advice I got for Prof Esther was to do the readings because they’re of great importance and indeed they were – one was expected to know the key points of many readings that weren’t explicitly covered within the lecture but otherwise assigned as mandatory readings for just the MCQs. Answering the short essay questions took a little more knowledge as one had to recall and apply theories learnt to real life situations. So in short, a somewhat challenging finals even though it did not demand a lot in terms of handwriting speed.
The workload for the module aside from assignments was light. At 20-40 pages per week, one could clear the readings in an hour max/tops. More attention will need to be paid towards the assignments though, since they’re slightly heavier than one might expect for a 1k module.
I had received an A- for my second assignment but forgot the grade for my first, so…yea, I didn’t really know what to expect. An A-, perhaps, an A would be nice?
An A! Yay~ It’s a 1k mod and not a PS module (so it doesn’t affect my SJAP) but it’s still a nice A, so that’s great! TGBTG ^^
Conclusion & Tips
I took this module as a U/E and I’m really glad I did. One doesn’t just learn more about what they read in the news – one gets the chance to actively walk on the ground and see first-hand a small slice, a tiny slice, of a much larger world that social workers tackle on a daily basis. Indeed, one learns more than just knowledge for the sake of exams – much of what is learnt can be used to help those older or younger than one, perhaps even friends that may suffer from the problems mentioned. In short, I’d recommend this module to just about anyone with, or looking to develop empathy.
- Since the assignments are timelocked in nature (only available after a certain period – you can’t write your reflection without having been on the field trip, for example), be sure to complete other assignments for other mods so that when the assignments for this module are released, you’ve got enough time and energy to clear this before moving on.
- Using the reference of ‘what a social worker would do’ vs ‘what I would expect a social worker to do’ can be a helpful gauge when studying about different ways social workers work with different segments of society at present.
- Go in with an open heart and mind – students from quite a lot of different majors take this module (I’ve met Law and Life Sci majors here) so it’s quite interesting to engage others in conversations and find out what draws them here.