top of page

Social Work Education and Training in Republican Turkey


In this chapter, the education and training of social work in Republican Turkey are examined and the development of social work education and social services in Turkey are discussed in the historical background. In this framework, Turkish higher educational system and the position of social work education within the system is going to be emphasized. Moreover, the developments in social work education are going to be discussed from 1990’s onwards with the example of Hacettepe University, Department of Social Work, which is the pioneer and a unique model for other social work education programs in Turkey.

Social welfare services and social assistance in Turkey have a deep-rooted history, dating back to the times of Ottoman Empire. A large number of organizations were engaged in the field of social welfare thanks to the increasing economic and political power of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted seven centuries until the beginning of twentieth century. In this context, organizations, named Vakif (foundation) were founded by charitable folks as foundations focusing on social solidarity and financial aid. Futuvvet (also known as Lonca) were established by the tradesmen and merchants to provide vocational aid and those tasks similar to social security today. Other social welfare organizations were (and still existing in this century) the “Himaye’i Etfal Cemiyeti” (Child protection Institution) and “Hilal’i Ahmer Cemiyeti” (The Red Crescent) (Çavusoglu, 2001). Thus, these organizations performed most of the social welfare functions in the primarily Islamic, but also multi-religious and multi-ethnic and secular Ottoman Turkish history (Kut, 1983). They served for the poor, women and children, culminating in the present-day social welfare and support traditions of the Turkish society of Anatolia and Thrace. After the foundation of the Republican Turkey in the year 1923, providing social welfare services through the organizations of the state has gained renewed importance.

The emergence of organized social services and social work education in Republican Turkey can be described as a slow but sure developmental process over several decades. This process is closely related to societal changes such as rapid urbanization and industrialization followed by increased demands for for scientific and professional standards for all, and especially, health and welfare services in the early sixties.

Social work education is historically connected with all the developments discussed above.

The initiation of education and training for professional and planned public social services in Turkey was also in line with the Keynesian conceptualization of social welfare in the post-world war II era (Göbelez, 2003). Social welfare went through a period of rapid growth and gained popularity in Turkey as it did in many parts of the world. Governments regarded it within the framework of universalism, as an institution in its own right with a potential for treating social problems such as poverty, child, family and elderly welfare, etc. As the field of social welfare expanded, the concern for the education of qualified professionals gained prominence. Thus, in the late 1950s, social work education became a major concern of the Turkish state. However, what contributed the most to the structuring of social work education and to the contemporary design of social welfare services in Turkey were primarily external factors, rather than, internal societal demands. The United Nations (UN) was an active agent within the process of the establishment of a social work school and development of state-wide services, as it was in other developing countries. After the Social Commission of the Economic and Social Council under the UN stressed the need for fostering social welfare staff in its 1947 assembly, a survey about the social service education programs of countries was prepared and reported in 1949. These UN agencies approved a resolution in 1951 that acknowledged social work as profession with specific functions and educational requirements (Kosar and Tufan, 1999). The international assemblies concerning social work training that have met since then, the second being held in 1954 and a third in 1959, demonstrated the extent to which the institutionalization and professionalization of social work in various countries had been influenced by the leading characteristics of the experience in the USA, the leading country in the United Nations (Özdemir, 2001). Not surprisingly, training for social work expanded incrementally in Europe, Latin America, Canada and Australia, as well as in various countries of Asia and the Middle East in 1950s. Midgley (1981) indicated that despite the emphasis given to differing aspects of social work education in each country, social workers mainly undertook quite similar tasks and they dealt mostly with the problems of the individual and his/her family, just like their British and American counterparts. Because of this functional affinity and because of a common desire to strengthen scientific content of social work, social work education in Europe as well as in Turkey and other countries, has been receptive to theories and ideas formulated and advanced via the US.

According to Göbelez (2003), Turkey took its part in the worldwide phenomena of the diffusion of social work to the “Third-World” through the efforts of western social advisers provided by United Nations. This international spread of social work, instigated by western social work experts, corresponded to the ideals of modernization. The models that these experts utilized to promote modern social work were often based on approaches developed in their own countries, primarily the US. Turkey received support from a number of US experts commissioned by UN in order to develop a national welfare system and to provide solutions for the rising social problems. Consultants were assigned to research in the field such as general social welfare, social development, social work education, family welfare, and rehabilitation services. Thus, the emergence and structuring of professional social work education was based on American experience. This is important not only because the institutionalization of social work education in Turkey was influenced by that experience, but also because emblematic of the processes in other parts, mainly the developed countries of the world...

Cite: Tuncay, T. ve Tufan, B. (2011). “Social Work Education and Training in Republican Turkey”, Selwyn Stanley (Ed.), in Social Work Education in Countries of the East: Issues and Challenges, New York: Nova Publishers, pp.543-562.

Please click the link for the FULL TEXT of the chapter

Beni takip edin
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page