The second week of April, the Social Work students of CGE had the great opportunity of taking part in an exchange with the students from the Escuala Nacional de Trabajo Social (ENTS). This school is the smallest in all of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), having about 3,000 alumni. However, it is practically the same size as the private schools in Minnesota we come from (Augsburg, St. Olaf, and St. Kate's), but different in that it is completely dedicated to social work.
During our time at ENTS we had the chance to see how social work is done is Mexico through speaking with professors, spending time with students in their practicums, attending classes, and taking a tour. We learned that attending ENTS is completely free for all Mexican citizens besides the 30-cent charge for the piece of paper used for registration each year. The school puts a great emphasis on the importance of research in social work, which was somewhat a new idea for me.
The students have three different internships throughout their undergraduate schooling, and each begins with doing a diagnosis of the problem the population they are working with is facing. Not until extensive research is complete and a plan of action is developed can the students begin to work one-on-one with the people. Another area of difference in the practicum is that the UNAM students work in groups as opposed to what we’re used to - working alone at different agencies. These groups of interns work as a team and provide support to one another. They divide the work and specialize in the topics they’re most interested in.
The bachelor's level social work program at the UMAN is extremely intensive. The students are required to take up to 7 courses each semester in topics similar to ours, but much more extensive. All of the subjects they study purely surround social work topics. A student must know upon acceptance that they want to graduate with a degree in Social Work; while in the US we begin with general courses in order to give students the opportunity to explore different fields. I think each method produces different results. In my opinion, bachelor level college graduates in the United States know a little about a lot of different things, and the ENTS students receive an education more similar to a masters level degree in the US, knowing a lot about one specific thing: social work. In many ways, I think they are more prepared to be professionals with the completion of their degree, but something that was emphasized during our stay was that one system is not any better than the other, they are only different. Now that we have learned about the profession of social work from the Mexicans perspective, what unique things can we share about ourselves in the second half of this exchange?
By Natalie Koness