UNESCO launches new syllabi, unveils Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education

UNESCO has launched ten new specialized syllabi on journalism education to fill the gap for specialized literacies required by journalism educators to respond to new challenges. Such specialized journalistic literacies include those relating to media sustainability, data mining, intercultural dialogue, global communication, humanitarian crisis, human trafficking, community participation, science and bioethics, as well as gender inequality. Titled Model Curricula for Journalism Education: A Compendium of New Syllabi, the new publication builds on the original UNESCO Model Curricula developed in 2007 and adapted, since then, in over 60 countries.

UNESCO attends World Journalism Education Congress

Fackson Banda delivering his keynote address at WJEC. Courtesy of VNOJ

The new publication was officially launched at a gathering of over 300 people during the third edition of the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC3) in Mechelen, Belgium, on 5 July. In his keynote speech Fackson Banda, UNESCO programme specialist and editor of the book, said: “This compendium builds on the original UNESCO Model Curricula developed in 2007 and launched at the first congress of the World Journalism Education Council in Singapore”.

Whereas the original Model Curricula focused on developing countries and emerging democracies, these new syllabi are relevant to all democratic societies in which journalism education is an important part of national efforts at promoting free, independent and pluralistic media development. An added value of these new syllabi consists in the use of globally inclusive sources of references, increased focus on online resources, and gender-sensitivity.

UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, addressing third WJEC through a video link. Courtesy of VNOJ

Earlier on the first day of the congress (3 July), UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, while underscoring the continuing relevance of the original Model Curricula, challenged the over 300 participants from over 55 countries to “continually review syllabi to ensure journalism education is in tune with the world”.

Success of original Model Curricula for Journalism Education

Adapted in over 60 countries, the original Model Curricula have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, demonstrating their global relevance and appeal. Plans are underway to open-license the Model Curricula to maximise their utility value as a shared teaching resource.

During his keynote speech, Banda also unveiled UNESCO’s plans for a Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education. The initiative builds on the increasingly global applicability and appeal of the original Model Curricula as well as UNESCO’s Potential Centres of Excellence in Journalism in Africa initiative started in 2007.

This initiative represents a globally inclusive second phase of the African Centres initiative, which sought to support efforts by African schools of journalism to strengthen their capacities for teaching, strategic development and professional outreach. The African Centres initiative has since been internally reviewed, and the report can be accessed here.

Global Initiative for Excellence in Journalism Education


This new phase is about integrating the African centres into the global mainstream of journalism education, in collaboration with Orbicom, the Montreal-based network of UNESCO chairs in communication.

The initiative would have a sharper focus on journalism education as key to Knowledge-Driven Media Development – a framework endorsed by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Bureau in March 2013, in order to enhance the role of knowledge and learning in informing and driving UNESCO’s efforts at media development.

This new initiative presents a coherent and cohesive framework for UNESCO’s global interventions in journalism education. Its main aim is to promote and support viable South-South and North-South partnerships among schools of journalism around a set of core principles of excellence in teaching, research and professional outreach.

Efforts to further elaborate and operationalize the initiative include a series of past and ongoing consultations.

One initial consultation involved a speech by Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, during a conference held by Orbicom and the Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle du Maroc (HACA) from 25 to 26 May 2013 in Rabat, Morocco.

Another initial consultation included a speech by Fackson Banda during a lecture session on conflict-sensitive reporting featuring Dr Peter Laufer, James Wallace Professor in Journalism, University of Oregon. The lecture was held on 12 June 2013 by the U.S. Mission to UNESCO.

Subsequent indirect consultations included references to the new syllabi and the Global Initiative in syndicate and panel discussions in which UNESCO was involved during the WJEC. Banda represented UNESCO in chairing the syndicate on Young Journalists on Global Issues and took part as a panellist on the subject International Reporting in Journalism Education. In addition, UNESCO partnered with the Open Society Institute for Southern Africa (OSISA) to bring ten African journalism educators as panellists during the WJEC on the topic Teaching Alternative Journalistic Literacies/Specialisms in African Journalism Schools.

More consultations are scheduled to take place, as UNESCO attempts to deepen participation by stakeholders in defining how the Global Initiative will work to leverage the gains of the original Model Curricula and the African Centres initiative to promote excellence in journalism education, with Africa as a central beneficiary of any such global interventions as will pan out.

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