UNESCO Supports the Strengthening of Journalism Education in Afghanistan
Journalism education has been facing new challenges in recent years to make it updated with various developments that have been taking place in the world order, including in the field of new communication and information technologies. It is therefore deemed necessary to strengthen journalism education, especially in country such as Afghanistan than has been affected by wars and conflicts over the past decades. The development of journalism curricula is one of the crucial steps towards that goal.
It was the main reason for UNESCO to organize a workshop in cooperation with and hosted by the Faculty of Journalism, Kabul University, that took place in the University, on 27 September 2011. The workshop was co-organized by UNESCO Kabul Office and UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office, and attended by around 20 journalism lecturers from Kabul University and from a number of other universities in Afghanistan, along with trainers from journalism training institutes in the country. The main aim of the workshop was to discuss the UNESCO’s model of journalism education as outlined in UNESCO’s book “Model Curricula for Journalism Education”.
Mr. Zulkarimein Nasution, a senior lecturer from Universitas Indonesia who has been involved in similar activities in a number of major cities in Indonesia, and in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad, was acting as the main resource person in the Kabul’s workshop. In his presentation he outlined some important aspects of curricula development in general, such as the role of curricula as a point of departure for other instructional components and its nature that is relatively controllable as compared to other elements such as budget, students and environment. He also explained about the steps in curriculum design, for which the most important step is to to decide on what competencies are going to be mastered by the graduates.
He then talked more specifically on the UNESCO’s Model Curricula, by giving his emphasis on the basis of the Model which consists of three pillars, namely: 1) norms, values, tools, standards, and practices of journalism; 2) the social, cultural, political, economic, legal and ethical aspects of journalism practice both within and outside the national borders; and 3) knowledge of the world and journalism’s intellectual challenges.
Vice Chancellor of Kabul University, Professor Mohammad Salim Rahimi opened the workshop, while the closing session was presided over by the Chancellor of Kabul University, Professor Hameedullah Amin. In their remarks, both of them praised UNESCO’s support very highly, as Afghanistan is really in a critical stage to move forward in the efforts to develop and strengthen their education, including in the field of journalism.
The University’s Chancellor Professor Hameedullah Amin underlined the fact on how importance the supports needed by the University needs. “We are rebuilding our country, including our education system after three decades of wars and conflicts,” the Chancellor said in his closing remarks. “Only through education we can prepare our younger generation,” he said, by also adding that the workshop is a good initial step towards developing an inclusive and standardizing journalism curriculum for Afghanistan. “Journalism has made a tremendous progress in recent years and we need to have sufficient curriculum to keep up with the pace”, he said.
The Faculty of Journalism of Kabul University is in the process of reviewing their current curricula, with some activities have been carried out including establishing contact with schools in a number of western countries, such as Nebraska University in the USA, as informed by the Dean of Faculty of Journalism, Professor Mohammad Waheed Gharwal in the opening session. The UNESCO’s workshop will be in line with the Faculty’s plans in strengthening its curricula.
During the opening session, Mr. Arya Gunawan Usis, Advisor for Communication and Information of UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office which also covers Afghanistan, provided a brief explanation concerning the process of developing the UNESCO’s Model Curricula, and various activities that had been initiated by UNESCO in the efforts to disseminate the Model, including adaption of the Model by some countries. Mr. Usis also mentioned that some follow-up activities are being planned based on the recommendation produced by this workshop in Kabul University. In his remarks, Mr. Usis also conveyed the message from Director of UNESCO Kabul, expressing UNESCO’s long term commitment towards supporting higher education in Afghanistan in which Kabul University is one of UNESCO’s main counterparts.
The UNESCO’s Model of Journalism Curricula is a generic model that can be adapted according to each country’s specific needs. It highlights the connection between democracy and journalism and arguing for a more cross-disciplinary approach within journalism training centers. The process to develop the Model started in December 2005, in response to numerous requests from Member States for help in the design of journalism education curricula. UNESCO then took the initiative to convene an experts’ consultative meeting in its Headquarters in Paris.
A team of four UNESCO experts, commissioned for the initial development of the journalism education curricula initiative, solicited a response to their first draft from twenty senior journalism educators who were deemed to have considerable experience working in developing countries and emerging democracies. Journalism instructors with experience working in developing countries or emerging democracies were then carefully selected from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America to write the syllabuses for seventeen core courses. The draft curricula was reviewed at a second experts’ consultative meeting at UNESCO in Paris, selecting a number of model syllabuses to qualify the document for official launch during the 1st World Journalism Education Congress in June 2007 in Singapore.
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