USJ kicks off public lectures to boost development of social services

Ning Tang (left) and Priscilla Hoi

The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) kicked off a series of public lectures on “spirituality and religion in social services” yesterday, aiming to provide a platform for local social workers and other professionals to be updated on the current trends and needs of the sector.
A series of public lectures will be held on a monthly basis, with the purpose of providing opportunities for such workers to continue their professional development, by inviting speakers from different fields and backgrounds.
Conducted by the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences and the Mother Mary Social Studies Center of Caritas Macau, the public lectures also aim to close the gap between the world of academia and the practice of theory.
“We feel like there’s always a gap between the academic world and practice, so we would like to open our classrooms and lectures to the public so we can actually have a communication platform. […] Also, we can help social work professionals in Macau to improve their professionalism,” said Ning Tang, an assistant professor and coordinator for the Department of Social Work of USJ.
Although the project is still being trialed for now, Tang said that the public lectures may be more significant once the law on professional accreditation schemes and registration for social workers is implemented next year.
“I’m sure that in the near future, social workers will need and be required by the law to [receive] some continuous education, and we would like to try this project first and see what we can contribute,” the coordinator added.
The lectures will introduce a series of specific themes relevant for the practice of counselors and other professionals in social, educational and health services.
The lectures will also include the topics of spirituality, religious beliefs, and conceptions about spirituality and religion. They will deal with the place and role of spirituality and religion in the client’s and counselor’s life, and religion and spirituality in counseling practice and in the daily life of agencies.
For Tang, Macau’s progress on social work has fallen behind that of other nearby countries and territories.
“We developed social work a little bit later than Hong Kong and we have many unique cultures that actually shaped the development of social work in Macau. So you really have to understand the culture inside the social welfare system in order to learn what we can do together,” she said.
“I guess the biggest challenge is to understand what’s there and what are the needs. We don’t even know what the needs are, so it’s hard for us to develop anything practical,” the assistant professor added.
Meanwhile, Priscilla Hoi, training executive at the Mother Mary Social Studies Center of Caritas Macau, said that the public lectures would also invite experts from mainland China and Hong Kong.
According to Hoi, the lectures are open to the public and will also create an exchange of ideas, in a bid to foster collaboration between the city’s social workers and professionals, and will boost the development of the city’s social work sector.

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