This study looks at how much education students who are training to become social workers, teachers, and preschool teachers receive in four major areas: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; physical abuse of children; sexual abuse of children; and a methodological model for teacher-child communication. The study also examines whether students feel they receive sufficient education in these areas, when they receive it, and what form it takes (theoretical, methodological, and/or practical). One goal is to compare the results of this study with the results of a previous (2007) study, ‘Knowledge Gives Courage to See and Confidence to Act’; it used an identical survey and respondents consisted of 548 social workers, teachers and preschool teachers in the final weeks of their education.
This study, ‘Thank You for Asking’, used a web survey that was answered by 121 social work students, 119 teaching students, and 146 preschool teaching students from nine colleges and universities in Norway. In total, 427 students answered the survey. Reponses were processed in SPSS software. The students could optionally write comments at the end of the survey. These comments were systematically analysed using thematic analysis.
The results show that, compared to the 2007 respondents, most students training to become social workers, teachers, and preschool teacher had received considerably more education in the areas addressed by the survey. Nonetheless, the majority of current respondents still felt that the education they had received had not prepared them for future work in their profession. Based on responses to the open question made by 127 students, and the question asking at what point in their program these four areas were addressed, our interpretation is that student education in these areas is both insufficient and too sporadic. Teaching on these issues was often confined to a single guest lecture or one day out of an entire semester when the class might focus on topics such as child sexual abuse. Our study shows that students themselves desire a clearer focus on these issues in their programs.
The problem of violence and sexual abuse against children and adolescents is higher on the social agenda today than in 2007. New research has increased our knowledge base, new interventions and treatments have been developed, and fewer taboos surround the issue. The Norwegian government has announced its commitment to preventing violence and abuse and reducing numbers of victims, as per a number of action plans and policy documents. Guidelines from the Ministry of Education and Research clearly state that any knowledge of violence or abuse must be shared with all professionals who come in contact with children and adolescents, to enable them to intervene and take action. Furthermore, the Ministry has suggested curricular changes that would require teacher education programs at all colleges and universities to address violence and sexual abuse against children. However, the results of this study indicate that the universities have a long way to go to fulfil these new requirements. For children and adolescents exposed to violence and abuse, and for their right to receive support and help, it is crucial that universities develop new strategies, wherein they take responsibility for giving students who are training to become social workers, teachers, and preschool teachers the knowledge they so clearly demand.