I’ve been reading lots of articles and blog posts lately about midwifery education and I see a lot about “standardized” education.  I think that when we’re discussing midwifery educational requirements, we’re actually discussing a much larger societal issue….what is education, how does it work, does it work the same for everyone and so on.

Standardized education assumes that every person learns in the exact same way, that said learning will give the exact same knowledge in every person, that the education is necessary to perform a given task and that a certificate at the end assures every person is competent in knowledge.  I see a fundamental flaw in this way of thinking, do you?  Let’s look at each of these assumptions:

1.  Every person learns in the exact same way

I think it’s generally accepted that every person does NOT learn in the exact same way, but our educational system (for the most part) has not yet caught up to that.  Furthermore, in a typical classroom-type setting with more than a handful of students, it is nearly impossible to teach to all learning styles.  If there are three types of learning styles (or we can go further and talk about the seven types of intelligence), then the teacher would need to teach three different ways.


2.  Every person will get the same knowledge from the same course

Have you ever read the same book as someone else, yet your description of it is completely different?  Yep, me too.  Since we learn differently, it only makes sense that each of us will pick up something different from learning.


3.  The education is necessary to perform a given task

I could probably have worded that better, but what I mean to say is why in the world is it “necessary” for me to have a general history course if my intended task is to help women have babies?  If it were a class based upon the history of midwifery or the history of childbearing, maybe.  Unfortunately, our education system seems stuck on some strange idea that we all require certain knowledge to function in our daily lives.  We don’t.  This becomes incredibly apparent (and even more strange) when we are speaking of higher levels of education.  Since a person has fulfilled the general requirements for basic schooling (high school, GED, home school), that should be sufficient for moving on to other specific studies, right?  No!  Even though you’ve spent anywhere from 12-15 YEARS acquiring “necessary” knowledge, you still don’t know enough about xyz to hone your focus on one subject.  If we were to take away the requirements for extraneous coursework while getting a degree in a specific major (or even lessen the extraneous during the primary/high school years), the time spent schooling would be greatly lessened.

4.  A certificate at the end assures every person is competent in knowledge

Guess what?  All you have to do is get through whatever course work is required and voila!, you’re prepared!  In my opinion, we have become way too complacent on certificates, licenses, etc. telling us whether or not a person is capable of doing a job.  In theory, every person who goes through xyz school for blah will come out proficient at blah.  However, this is just not the case.  There really is no guarantee, ever, that the person in front of you is any good at what you’re asking him/her to do, period.


When discussing standardization, it is also easy to overlook the fact that consumers (that is, everyone) do NOT want a one-size-fits-all product anymore…and it doesn’t matter what the product is!  We, as a society, prefer personalized, one-on-one interactions, something standardized anything (including school) doesn’t produce much of.  So why then, do we insist on standardized education??


I would also like to say that I have the pleasure of knowing a fair amount of midwives…CPMs, CNMs, “traditional” midwives and more.  They are all wonderful ladies who faithfully serve the women of their communities.  I have seen all of them work side-by-side for the good of all women, and I am humbled by their knowledge, their compassion, their ability to continue to learn throughout their careers.  What I love about the variety of midwives is that there is someone for everyone.   Training backgrounds produce different types of midwives, and that is OKAY.  In order to serve the vast variety of women in the world, we need to have a large spectrum of care providers….working together for the betterment of all families.