Abstract: Is Human Rights Included in Global Social Work Education? a Comparison between Spain and the USA (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

266P Is Human Rights Included in Global Social Work Education? a Comparison between Spain and the USA

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jane McPherson, PhD, MPH, LCSW, Assistant Professor & Director of Global Engagement, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Tatiana Otalora, MSW, PhD Student, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Carla Cubillos Vega, PhD, Researcher, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Background: The Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training (Article 8.8) assert that social work students be “schooled in a basic human rights approach, as reflected in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR; 1948), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the UN Vienna Declaration (1993)” (International Association of Schools of Social Work & International Federation of Social Workers, 2004). Following on the hypothesis that social work students are being exposed to human rights, this project explores the rights-based knowledge and commitments of US and Spanish social work students based on their self-rated human rights exposure and engagement. The presentation will focus on a comparative analysis of the two countries and will consider students’ responses in light of the human rights commitments made by their respective governments.

Methods: Social work students in Spain and the USA were surveyed about their human rights exposure and engagement using scales that were initially validated in the USA—human rights exposure in social work and human rights engagement in social work (HRESW; McPherson & Abell, 2012)—and then validated in Spain using factor analysis (Cubillos Vega, Ferran Aranaz, & McPherson, 2018). Human rights engagement is a composite construct that combines endorsement of human rights principles, a belief in their relevance to social work, and the commitment to putting principles into practice. All items are scored on a 7-point scale. In this presentation, the survey data is analyzed for content in order to describe differences between U.S. and Spanish students.

Results: Overall, 283 U.S. and 475 Spanish students participated. In both countries, 83% of students surveyed were female. Students in Spain (M= 6.32; SD=1.01) and the US (M= 6.34; SD=1.06; X2(1,758)=0.81; p<.368).) strongly and similarly endorsed rights-based statements like, “I believe that equal rights for all are the foundation for freedom in the world.” Spanish participants were more likely to have read the UDHR (X2(1,750)=7.78, p<.01), and they scored higher (M=6.10; SD=0.56) on rights-engagement than their U.S. peers (M= 5.99; SD=0.66; F(1,757)=4.00, p<.05). Though all students largely rejected the statement that “Sometimes torture is necessary to protect national security,” U.S. students (M=2.37, SD=1.68) were significantly more likely to positively endorse torture than their Spanish peers (M=1.52, SD=1.08; X2(1,756)=73.16; p<.001). Echoing the U.S. Bill of Rights, U.S students (M=6.71, SD=0.63) were significantly more likely to endorse the statement, “respecting clients’ freedom of religion is part of social work practice” than their Spanish peers (M=6.25, SD=1.23; X2(1,758)=133.22; p<.001). Other social rights, like “reasonable working hours and periodic holidays without pay,” special assistance for mothers and young children, and the right to housing, were significantly more highly scored by Spanish students, whose country affirms these rights through the European Convention on Human Rights.

Conclusions: Spanish students generally evidence higher human rights engagement and more support of social rights than their U.S. peers. Scholars will suggest explanations for differences observed between the groups and consider the lessons that can be applied to social work education globally.