Challenges in Social Work Field Education in China: Lessons from the Western Experience

Meirong Liu, Fei Sun, Steven G. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social work education has been a growing field in Mainland China in the last two decades, accompanying economic reforms and the reintroduction of social sciences into the curriculum in higher education. The rapid increase of social work programs has also generated concerns and discussion. This study examines one of the most important educational concerns-the nature and challenges of field education. After briefly introducing the development of Chinese social work education, we describe critical features of field education in the United States. We then examine how such educational features may present similar and different challenges in China, drawing on a purposive survey of 15 Chinese universities with an MSW program. The survey content focuses on three specific aspects of field education, including field education curriculum design, features of field agencies, and challenges encountered in implementing field education. Content analysis is conducted to identify key themes and issues in these emerging programs. We find that the lack of faculty supervisors, inadequate field agencies for placement, and few qualified social workers at field agencies are among the most frequently reported challenges. We then provide specific recommendations for addressing the challenges and assisting the development of social work field education in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-196
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Field Education
  • Social Work
  • Western Experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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