In 2022, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), in consultation with UNFPA Laos, chose the Colleges of Laos to be part of the second pilot project for the Midwifery Education Accreditation Programme (MEAP). In January 2023, they became the first of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure the delivery of top-quality education and achieve the International Accreditation of Midwifery Education.
The ICM’s Midwifery Education Accreditation Programme (MEAP)—funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNFPA Maternal Health Trust Fund–is a key regulatory and educational mechanism that serves to assess whether pre-service midwifery education programmes meet the ICM’s global education standards. MEAP offers accreditation approval based on an independent assessment of an institute’s midwifery educational programme(s) to determine the extent to which it meets ICM standards. MEAP not only serves as a quality label, but also enables consistent midwifery education processes and graduate outcomes.
The three colleges in Laos underwent an 18-month quality improvement process led by UNFPA Laos. UNFPA hosted three workshops to support schools in key areas for improvement. Once the schools completed this series of workshops, they were invited to apply for the MEAP pilot. ICM MEAP team members were on site in Laos for 11 days. They visited three colleges, the schools in Laos, along with schools in Bangladesh and Rwanda who were also included in this pilot MEAP project, are the first schools in the world to complete the process and achieve this recognition. This achievement is a great step in the direction of regulated, standardized midwifery education all over the globe.
Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative in Lao PDR, said, “this accreditation is timely and significant for Laos‘ efforts to reduce maternal deaths. The Lao Midwives were committed to attain this standard despite the past few years riddled with COVID-19 related challenges. UNFPA has been supporting Laos’ midwifery programme since 2009 and we are delighted to have facilitated such a positive result for midwifery education in Lao PDR! The UNFPA Maternal Health Trust Fund (MHTF) is a key mechanism behind this success.”
While some governments, midwifery associations, and regulatory bodies have developed midwifery education standards, few have the systems needed to promote regular quality improvement efforts and/or external assessments using those standards. ICM’s MEAP provides both accreditation and re-accreditation processes, and it can support existing accreditation processes or fill existing gaps.
Using the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education and the Essential Competencies for Midwifery Practice, the MEAP provides an independent assessment of midwifery education programmes, certifying whether they meet the standards. The MEAP also identifies areas of good practice. The MEAP accreditation system focuses on pre-service midwifery programmes that use both direct-entry and/or post-nursing registration.
ICM’s midwife advisor for education, Erin Ryan, said, “Through commitment and dedication to quality improvement in education, the Laos PRD medical college attained MEAP accreditation. Equally impressive is the Laos’s colleges plans for ongoing quality assurance programs. They are not only an example and inspiration to midwifery educators around the world, but they are also leaders. I look forward to seeing these Laos midwife educators sharing their approach and lessons learned in order for more schools to improve their midwife educational programs and increase the number of quality midwives in the world.”
The ICM Midwife Association Strengthening team will meet in Portugal early in 2023 to discuss further plans for MEAP.