Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sweden (1)

by Pa Rock
World Traveller

I have gone on at length about the social work tour of Russia that I was fortunate enough to be a part of in 1999. After spending over a week in Moscow and St. Petersburg, our group boarded a plane for a short hop to Stockholm, Sweden.

Those of us who weren’t in a hurry to get to the hotel and unpack were given an opportunity to go to the University of Stockholm for an orientation to social work in Sweden that was presented by the Dean of Social Work. The dean, an older lady, said that the three main functions of the school of social work were to educate social workers, teach research methods for social work, and do actual social work research. She said they were also educating social workers abroad, primarily in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bosnia.

The University of Sweden, in 1999, had 30,000 students. It was a public university that did not charge tuition. The school of social work had 400 graduate students, including 50 in the doctoral program, and 800-1,000 undergraduate students. Students in the masters program were established social workers, and their curriculum was built around problems that they brought to the program. The masters program also taught managerial skills to social workers who wanted to move into social work administration. The school had a staff of 125, thirty-five of whom were pure researchers or administrators. Seventy percent of the teachers were women. The student population of the school of social work was eighty percent female.

The dean identified three major programs within the school: children at risk, elder care, and alcohol abuse. She said that were also two emerging areas of interest at the school. First, would the welfare state have the ability to survive? (Sweden had cradle-to-grave free healthcare, but the income tax rate was sixty percent.) And, second, what should society’s response be to the refugee situation. (Eighty thousand people had fled Bosnia within the preceding few years, and many of them had come to Sweden where they were experiencing a total lack of integration.)

The dean also talked about women’s issues in Sweden. She said that the country had new legislation regarding battered women aimed at insuring that male abusers were brought to court. If a woman declined to press charges, the police could do it if there was an established pattern of abuse. She also said that the country had established special clinics for young girls so that they could get medical advice and treatment without telling their parents.

As we were leaving the presentation we found that our tour buses had not returned to pick us up. Several members of the university staff pitched in to give us rides to our hotel in their own cars. I was one of three to ride with the dean in her older Volvo sedan. As we started up, I noticed that the engine sounded somewhat strange by American standards, and I asked her if it was a diesel. “No,” she laughed. “It just sounds like one!”

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