WCO’s Role in Education
The focus of WCO’s role in education has been to develop resources that will be of benefit in particular to developing countries where optometry does not have a well-established infrastructure. The resources that will continue to be developed over the next five years will include the following –
- WCO has a partnership with the World Continuing Education Alliance to develop online education resources. The aim is to promote this resource to those developing countries without sufficient access to education resources. Access to these resources is often free of charge to participants.
- A review of accreditation models has been undertaken to date and the intention is to develop accreditation resources that will be of benefit to regional associations, governmental agencies and universities to support the development and evaluation of university optometry programs. There are a number of accreditation systems including the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education in North America, European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) accreditation system and the accreditation manual of the Optometric Council of Australia and New Zealand, which help provide a framework that can be produced for developing countries. WCO believes it has a critical role working with regional associations and universities offering optometry courses, in particular, in Latin America, Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean regions. WCO supports the view that optometry should be a degree-based profession. Also, universities in regions where the profession is practised at a level less than Level 4 should be encouraged to develop courses that enable existing practitioners to expand their skills to achieve, at minimum, Level 4 competencies.
- The Education Committee will consider developing specific curricular elements required to advance practitioners from Level 2 to Level 3 and from Level 3 to Level 4 and eventually to Level 5. The overall benefit is to bridge the gap between current levels of practice and a minimum of Level 4 competencies. Global Optometry Competency Levels 1-4 have now been updated by WCO and it will be a critical role for WCO’s Education Committee to proactively promote the use of the Competency Framework for all universities to benchmark their programmes. This enables universities to argue for increased resources to ensure their programmes meet the minimum standards recommended by WCO. Work will continue to develop Level 5 competence standards to reflect the levels of practice undertaken in North America and in other developed countries offering therapeutics as part optometric practice.
- WCO’s Fellowship Programme is under review. During the next strategic period, Fellowship funds will focus on supporting WCO’s priorities and will give individuals opportunities to participate in WCO’s programmatic work. The Committee will continue to explore additional ways in which optometry programs, faculty and optometrists can interact, mentor and otherwise help further the education experience in optometric programs in developing countries.