Teacher trainers from South Asia discussed media and information literacy
Teacher trainers from South Asia gathered last week in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a workshop on UNESCO's Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teacher Education. 35 participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan discussed how to educate young people to stay informed in the modern world.
The four-day training-of-trainers workshop introduced UNESCO's draft Curriculum, which has been designed to help teachers educate young people to critically engage with newspapers, television, the Internet and other media. The objective of the Curriculum is to make students understand how media work and affect the world they live in.
During the workshop, participants got to grips with the basics of media and information literacy in teacher education. They had an in-depth look at certain modules of the Curriculum and gave their feedback on the proposed model. Discussions also took place on how to adapt the Curriculum to meet the particular demands of the region.
Media literacy is only beginning to emerge in the schools of the region, and public awareness in most of the South Asian countries remains limited. Media shape students' knowledge of the world and of themselves, therefore critical thinking, both about and through the media, is becoming a matter of urgency and a key component of teaching and learning.
Keeping up with new tools and skills, necessary to stay informed and engaged in the modern world, is not an only challenge for South Asian countries. Finding time and resources is just as important. While media literacy is not a new issue, it has quickly become an eminent one, due to the fast speed and wide spread of information via new media technologies.
Participants expressed a concern about the evident skill gap that exists between citizens of different age groups and socio-economic backgrounds in using the Internet and new technologies. They stressed that this gap and media illiteracy can lead to missed opportunities and social exclusion; it is, therefore, very important to instill the teaching of media literacy skills in schools from an early age. Some participants also argued that teaching media literacy would enrich public discussions and have a positive impact on diversity, tolerance and dialogue. But media literacy will never be sufficient without multicultural literacy: young people stay tone-deaf to the media when they are out of their cultural element.
The Curriculum has been drafted by UNESCO over the last 18 months with the contribution from leading international experts in this area. It will be piloted by selected teacher-training institutions across the world. Similar workshops were already held in South Africa and Jamaica.