The WFME Global Standards include Basic minimal standards & a mechanism for quality improvement in medical education

The improved health of all peoples is the main goal of medical education. This is also the overall mission of the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). In keeping with its constitution, as the international body representing all medical teachers and medical teaching institutions, WFME undertakes to promote the highest scientific and ethical standards in medical education, initiating new learning methods, new instructional tools, and innovative management of medical education.

In accordance with this mandate, WFME in its 1998 position paper launched the programme on International Standards in Medical Education. The purpose was to provide a mechanism for quality improvement in medical education, in a global context, to be applied by institutions responsible for medical education, and in programs throughout the continuum of medical education.

In the early stages of developing the initial document, Standards in Basic Medical Education, it became clear that specifying global standards in any restricted sense would exert insufficient impact on the medical schools and their curricula, and indeed would have the potential to lower the quality of medical education. The criticism has become commonplace that medical education has adjusted inadequately both to changing conditions in the health care delivery system, and to the needs and expectations of societies. Thus, a lever for change and reform had essentially to be incorporated into the standards. This led to the concept of the WFME standards to be framed to specify attainment at two different levels: (a) basic standards or minimum requirements; and (b) standards for quality development.

That the WFME Standards would have the status as an accreditation instrument was considered from the outset. After deliberation WFME has taken the position that only nationally appointed agencies can be directly responsible for accreditation procedures. However, WFME could have a role in assisting in an accreditation process were one to be introduced. Globally adopted standards can function as a template for the agencies designated to implement recognition/accreditation. It would also be appropriate for the WFME to develop guidelines and procedures for the use of its standards for accreditation purposes.

In the quality improvement of medical education, indispensable components are institutional self-evaluation, external review, and consultation. Both the structure and the function of WFME are conducive to the Federation partaking in setting up consultation teams in the entire world Regions. To ensure that competencies of medical doctors are globally applicable and transferable, readily accessible and transparent documentation of the levels of quality of educational institutions and their programs is essential. The World Directory of Medical Schools, published by the World Health Organization, was never intended for a purpose other than a listing and qualitative considerations were explicitly excluded. WFME had already in its position paper of 1998 suggested that a World Register of Medical Schools be developed, aiming to constitute a roster of quality assurance in medical educational institutions, and indicating specifically that institutions included have attained globally accepted and approved standards for medical education programs.