The “Glocalization” of Medical School Accreditation: Case Studies From Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan

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Abstract

Purpose

In an age of globalized medical education, medical school accreditation has been hailed as an approach to external quality assurance. However, accreditation standards can vary widely across national contexts. To achieve recognition by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), national accrediting bodies must develop standards suitable for both local contexts and international recognition. This study framed this issue in terms of “glocalization” and aimed to shine light on this complicated multistakeholder process by exploring accreditation in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.

Method

This study employed a comparative case-study design, examining the national standards that three accreditation bodies in East Asia developed using international reference standards. In 2015–2016, the authors conducted document analysis of the English versions of the standards to identify the differences between the national and international reference standards as well as how and why external standards were adapted.

Results

Each country’s accreditation body sought to balance local needs with global demands. Each used external standards as a template (e.g., Liaison Committee on Medical Education, General Medical Council, or WFME standards) and either revised (Taiwan, South Korea) or annotated (Japan) the standards to fit the local context. Four categories of differences emerged to account for how and why national standards departed from external references: structural, regulatory, developmental, and aspirational.

Conclusions

These countries’ glocalization of medical accreditation standards serve as examples for others seeking to bring their accreditation practices in line with global standards while ensuring that local values and societal needs are given adequate consideration.

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