AN OVERVIEW OF UNESCO ACTIVITIES IN CONNECTION WITH MEDIA LITERACY (1977-2009)
Assistant Professor; Abant İzzet Baysal University, Faculty of Education, Department of Social Studies Education.
UNESCO has provided important contributions in the attracting attention to and the development of media literacy education through its conference, symposium, seminar, research and publications which it organized and supported. The efforts moved into the international arena with Grunwald Declaration on Media Education in 1982 came to a head with “Paris Agenda or 12 Recommendations for Media Education” in 2007. UNESCO continues to organize and support activities related to media literacy. In this study, the investigation of activities was aimed. Document analysis method has been applied and, the individual studies supported by UNESCO and the institutional studies organized by UNESCO have been examined. In fact, the latter has been more carefully considered to reveal its view on media literacy education. As a result of this investigation, it has been exposed that UNESCO had a systematic approach to media literacy education. The approach has been analyzed under the specific headings: “concept of media literacy”, “media literacy education” and “the guidelines on media literacy education (curriculum, teacher training, research and international cooperation)”. Especially the guidelines has provided important clues for states about how to process on media literacy education. In conclusion, either policy makers or researchers should know that UNESCO, as an actor, must be followed carefully for development of media literacy education.
Keywords: UNESCO, education, media literacy education.
One of the main activity fields of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is education. This Organization, which has regarded the education as the key of social and economic development since the day when it was founded in 1945, deals with all stages of education starting with preschool education up to university education and vocational education, and, at the same time, concentrates on the subjects such as education policies, equality of opportunity in education, formation of global education policies and strategies. One of the education policies it endeavours to form is media literacy education. Beginning from the end of the seventies, UNESCO has intensified its concentration on media literacy education. The fact that media became a means of public discourse for the public as of 19th century has played a great role on this intensification. Having taken the power of vision -besides the audio- on its side especially after the invention of television, media has increased its domain of public discourse and its favourable / unfovourable effects making use of the power of being capable of omnipresent. Keeping in mind the reflection of this power into politicial field, UNESCO asked the following crucial question; … “Indeed, how can anyone become a fully functioning citizen in a democratic society if he/she is manipulated by commercial media?” (UNESCO, 1990). This is really a crucial question for media literacy education. As Masterman (1985: 11) has expressed, the vast majority of young adults rate television as being their most important source of political information. In a world in which images are fast becoming of greater significance than policies, in which slogans often count for more than rational argument, and in which we will all make some of our most important democratic decisions on the basis of media evidence, media education is both essential to the exercising of our democratic rights and a necessary safeguard against the worst excesses of media manipulation for political purposes. In this section I have looked at the importance of media education for ‘democracy’ only in the most limited sense of that word, that is, in relation to the processes of understanding explicitly political information, and of exercising one’s voting rights once every five years. As I have already suggested, however, media education is also an essential step in the long march towards a truly participatory democracy, and the democratisation of our institutions. Widespread media literacy is essential if all citizens are to wield power, make rational decisions, become effective change-agents, and have an active involvement with the media. It is in this much wider sense of ‘education for democracy’ that media education can play the most significant role of all.
UNESCO had taken into account the importance of the media literacy efforts and exposed two studies toward the end of the 1970s. The first of these is the publication called “Media Studies in Education” printed in the year 1977. This study endeavours to demonstrate the state of “media literacy” and “screen education” in West Europe, the Soviet Union, U.S.A. and various international organizations. Another study carried out in this field is “A General Curricular Model for Mass Media Education” written by Sirkka Minkkinen, Finnish Media Education Expert.
One of the most important milestones which made UNESCO aware of the necessity for media literacy education as a resulf of the change in relations between the media and the society is “International Symposium on Media Education” held in Grunwald in 1982. The following expressions in the final declaration of the Symposium indicates this awareness clearly:
“We live in a world where media are omnipresent: an increasing number of people spend a great deal of time watching television, reading newspapers and magazines, playing records and listening to the radio. In some countries, for example, children already spend more time watching television than they do attending school.
Rather than condemn or endorse the undoubted power of the media, we need to accept their significant impact and penetration throughout the world as an established fact, and also appreciate their importance as an element of culture in today’s world. The role of communication and media in the process of development should not be underestimated, nor the function of media as instruments for the citizen’s active participation in society. Political and educational systems need to recognize their obligations to promote in their citizens a critical understanding of the phenomena of communication.”
The journey of UNESCO in the field of media literacy started with “International Symposium on Media Education” held in Grunwald / Germany in 1982 and continued with “Workshop on the Use by Teachers of the Mass Media in the Educational Process” held in Jordan in 1983, “International Media Literacy Conference: ‘New Directions in Media Education’” held in Toulouse in 1990, “Educating for the Media and the Digital Age” held in Vienna in 1999, “Youth Media Education” held in Seville in 2002, “Paris Agenda” held in Paris in 2007 and finally “International Conference on Media Education” held in Riyad in 2007 which is the first international conference on this field in Middle East.
The studies of UNESCO in the field of media literacy is not restricted only with these conferences or symposiums. It has contributed a lot to the development of media literacy education with its studies, researches, reports, books, articles, curriculums and bibliographies.
Among these activities, the most striking ones are teaching programs including applicable activities (Minkkinen, 1978; Masterman, 1983; UNESCO, 2003; Frau-Meigs, 2006, UNESCO, 2006), studies aiming at training the teachers (UNESCO, 1983b; Tornero, 2008), comprehensive researches (Lee, 1982; Masterman, 1983; Halloran ve Marcia, 1986; Domaille ve Buckingham, 2001; Asthana, 2006) and the products obtained through international cooperation (UNESCO, 1977; Carlsson, 2006; Carlsson, 2008; Frau-Meigs ve Torrent, 2009). On the other hand, UNESCO has been publishing a mountly-review called “Sources” in English, French and Spanish Languages, and encouraging important projects such as “Mentor Project”.
If these activities are taken into consideration, it will clearly be seen that UNESCO approaches media literacy education with a systematic point of view. This point of view is analysed under the headings of “concept of media literacy”, “media literacy education”, “the guidelines on media literacy education (curriculum, teacher training, research and international cooperation)”.
THE CONCEPT OF MEDIA LITERACY
By the late 1970s UNESCO had taken notice of the increasing social dominance of media and of the importance of media literacy efforts. They characterized media as a “parallel school” for children and adolescents, one whose goals were not always complimentary or compatible with those of general education (UNESCO, 1984: 6). The Organization, preferring generally to use the concept of “media education” instead of “media literacy”, at a meeting held in Paris in 1979, defined media education as “all ways of studying, learning and teaching at all levels (primary, secondary, higher, adult education, lifelong education) and in all circumstances, the history, creativity, use and evaluation of media as practical and technical arts, as well as the place occupied by media in society, their social impact, the implication of media communication, participation, modification of the mode of perception they bring about, the role of creative work and access to media” (UNESCO, 1984: 8).
Three years later (in 1982), UNESCO organized an international symposium in Grunwald, Federal Republic of Germany in connection with the education of the public on with a view to dealing with the issue of “the education of the public on mass media”. The aim of the symposium was to share the experiences of the participants on “media education” and “relation between the communication and education”, to determine the steps to be taken in order to promote media education, and to ensure conscious use of the mass media in the field of education. A declaration titled “Grunwald Declaration on Media Education” and addressing to the whole nations was prepared at the end of the Symposium. In this declaration, media literacy was described as “developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes which will encourage the growth of critical awareness and, consequently, of greater competence among the users of electronic and print media”.
After Grunwald, another “International Media Literacy Conference” was organised in Toulouse, France in 1990 under the name of “New Directions in Media Education” with the sponsorship of UNESCO, the British Film Institute of England, and CLEMI (Centre de Liaison de L’Enseignement et des Moyen D’Information) of France. At this conference, important deliberations were hold on whether the correct term is “media education,” “media awareness,” or “media literacy.” Consequently, the term “media literacy” has been the winner of these deliberations because of the mental association with “literacy” meaning the ability to “read” and process information in order to participate fully in society. However, at this conference, it was emphasized that the term “media education” was firmly entrenched in England, Australia and other countries pioneering the field, and that the term “media studies” was also used, particularly in Australia.
These conceptional debates were ended with the idea that whatever it is called, the concept of “media literacy” incorporates both knowledge of the structure, economy and function of mass media systems in society as well as the analytical skills to “read” both the aesthetic and ideological content of mass media messages. Meanwhile, it is witnessed that the concept of “media education” is preferred and widely used in the majority of the studies carried out or spondored by UNESCO.
In 1999, UNESCO organised an International Conference under the name of “Educating for the Media and the Digital Age” in Vienna, Austria. At this conference, the concept of “media education” defined in Grunwald was dealt with in more detail. It is observed that, at the conference a more comprehensive evolution was made in connection with the concept of “media literacy”. This evolution was also adopted in the seminar held in Spain in 2002.
In 2002, a “Youth Media Education Seminar” was held in Seville, Spain with the participation of 23 experts from 14 countries with a view to preparing for renewed action in UNESCO’s Member States through a specialized programme in media education and the creation of media space for young people. According to the final report of the seminar, media education;
• deals with all communication media and includes the word and graphics, the sound, the still as well as the moving image, delivered on any kind of technology;
• enables people to gain understanding of the communication media used in their society and the way they operate and to acquire skills in using these media to communicate with others”.
• ensures that people;
– identify the sources of media texts, their political, social, commercial and/or cultural interests, and their contexts;
– analyze, critically reflect upon and create media;
– interpret the messages and values offered by the media;
– gain, or demand access to media for both reception and production;
– select appropriate media for communicating youngsters’ own messages or stories and for reaching their intended audience.
Beyond this general definition and statement of principles, aligned on the Vienna Conference, it was generally felt by members of the Seville Seminar that to make media education operational, to ensure its visibility and its legitimacy it was necessary to narrow down its focus:
• Media education is about teaching and learning with and ABOUT media, rather than THROUGH media.
• It involves critical analysis AND creative production.
• It can and should take place in formal and informal settings.
• It should promote the sense of community and social responsibility, as well as individual self-fulfilment.
25 years after the adoption of the Grünwald Declaration, in a session held in Paris on 21-22 June 2007, three main objectives of the concept of media education were defined as follows;
• to give access to all kinds of media that are potential tools to understand society and to participate in democratic life;
• to develop skills for the critical analysis of messages, whether in news or entertainment, in order to strengthen the capacities of autonomous individuals and active users;
• to encourage production, creativity and interactivity in the different fields of media communication.
Departing from UNESCO’s “media literacy” and “media-literate” definitions, it can be said that these definitions correspond to the widely accepted definition “it is the ability of a citizen to access, analyze, and produce information for specific outcomes” (Aufderheide, 1993: 6).
MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION
An alteration has been experienced from protectionist approach to empowering approach in the field of media literacy education. UNESCO is one of first actors realizing this alteration. The following expressions quoted from Grunwald Declaration can well be the proof of this awareness:
“Rather than condemn or endorse the undoubted power of the media, we need to accept their significant impact and penetration throughout the world as an established fact, and also appreciate their importance as an element of culture in today’s world. The role of communication and media in the process of development should not be underestimated, nor the function of media as instruments for the citizen’s active participation in society. Political and educational systems need to recognize their obligations to promote in their citizens a critical understanding of the phenomena of communication.”
UNESCO concludes that the reason for this alteration from protectionist approach to empowering approach is the change in our way of looking to media. At the Conference “New Directions in Media Education” held in Toulouse, France in 1990, what type of changes our understanding of media underwent were stated as follows (Thoman 1990):
• In the 50’s-60’s we understood the viewer as a “tabula rasa” — a blank slate on which mass media could write its powerful messages. The educational agenda, therefore, was inoculation — “in order to protect both our children and the continuity of our cultural values from the worst excesses of the media.” The tools were discrimination (of “good” media from “bad” media) and aesthetic appreciation (of the “good.”)
• In the 70’s/early 80’s the field moved from aesthetic questions toward ideological ones: How and in whose interest do the media operate? How are they organized? How do they produce meaning? How do they represent “reality?” And whose “reality?” The development of a critically informed intelligence became the key objective rather than nurturing a finely-honed aesthetic judgment.
• In the 90’s we now understand that media viewers are also producers of meaning. We are constantly trying to “make sense” of the many media messages we encounter everyday. There is a constant interaction between the text of the message, the context of the media event and the viewer’s background, past experience, value system, etc. The educational goal is now empowerment of the viewer to process the messages of the mass media and produce meanings that are both personally and societally relevant.
Thus, the fact that the change in our way of looking to the media deeply effects media literacy education and, as a result of this, our understanding of “media literacy” has undergone a change moved from protectionist approach to empowering approach is clearly exhibited.
At the International Conference on “Educating for the Media and the Digital Age” held in Vienna, Austria in 1999, UNESCO endeavored to display the outlines of media education:
“Media Education is part of the basic entitlement of every citizen, in every country in the world, to freedom of expression and the right to information and is instrumental in building and sustaining democracy. While recognizing the disparities in the nature and development of Media Education in different countries, the participants of the conference “Educating for the Media and the Digital Age” recommend that Media Education should be introduced wherever possible within national curricula as well as in tertiary, non-formal and lifelong education.
• Media Education addresses a wide range of texts in all media (print, still image, audio and moving image) which provide people with rich and diverse cultural experiences.
• In countries moving towards the introduction of new technologies, Media Education can assist citizens to recognise the potential of the media to represent/misrepresent their culture and traditions.
• In situations where access to electronic or digital technologies is limited or non existent, Media Education can be based on available media texts in that context.
• Media Education should be aimed at empowering all citizens in every society and should ensure that people with special needs and those socially and economically disadvantaged have access to it.
• Media Education also has a critical role to play in, and should be responsive to, situations of social and political conflicts, war, natural disaster, ecological catastrophe, etc.”
Consequently, it can be said that the views of UNESCO in connection with media literacy education depends mainly on “empowering the citizens to improve a critical awareness towards the media” and “fostering the decision-makers to prepare a suitable atmosphare for this”.
THE GUIDELINES ON MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION
No doubt, the most important effort exerted by UNESCO on media literacy education is to create an international consciousness on this matter. The first appeal made within this context has been “Grunwald Declaration On Media Education”. In this Declaration, what sort of road map could be followed was explained and the road map was set forth as four main recommendations. It is seen that these recommendations are focused on four main subjects such as “media education programs”, “training teachers”, “research” and “international co-operation”. It is understood that these four main subjects constitute the basis of the recommendations of UNESCO in the following years. These recommendations were reviewed in the Conference “Educating for the Media and the Digital Age” held in Vienna, Austria in 1999; some subtitles such as “media partnerships” and “consolidating and promoting the public sphere” were added to them in the Seminar “Youth Media Education” organised in Seville, Spain between 15-16 February 2002; and the said recommendations evolved into their present position in “Paris Agenda or 12 Recommendations for Media Education” held in Paris, between 21-22 June 2007.
25 years after the adoption of the Grunwald Declaration that paved the way for media education at the international level, experts, education policy-makers, teachers and researchers, NGO representatives and media professionals from all the regions of the world met in Paris, on 21-22 June 2007. Having stated that the place and role of media had strengthened in their societies, the participants agreed that citizens needed, more than ever, to have a critical analysis of information whatever the symbolic system used (image, sound, text), to produce content by themselves and to adapt themselves to professional and social change.
Focusing on Grunwald Declaration, they also agreed on the fact that the analyses of the Declaration were right and that the awareness with respect to media education were not sufficient. To overcome these troubles, 12 recommendations were elaborated in connection with the priority actions intended with the aim of fostering operational implementation and development of four Grunwald guidelines namely “media education programs”, “training teachers”, “research” and “international co-operation” and the meeting was, thus, closed. Following are the 12 recommendations elaborated depending on four Grunwald guidelines (UNESCO, 2007c);
I. Development of comprehensive media education programs at all education levels
Recommendation 1: To adopt an inclusive definition of media education
Recommendation 2: To strengthen the links between media education, cultural diversity and respect for human rights
Recommendation 3: To define basic skills and evaluation systems
II. Teacher training and awareness raising of the other stakeholders in the social sphere
Recommendation 4: To integrate media education in the initial training of teachers
Recommendation 5: To develop appropriate and evolving pedagogical methods
Recommendation 6: To mobilize all the stakeholders within the education system
Recommendation 7: To mobilize the other stakeholders of the social sphere
Recommendation 8: To place media education within the framework of lifelong learning
III. Research and its dissemination networks
Recommendation 9: To develop media education and research in higher education
Recommendation 10: To create exchange networks
IV. International cooperation in actions
Recommendation 11: To organize and to make visible international exchanges
Recommendation 12: To raise awareness and to mobilize political decision-makers
As can be seen, the recommendations stated in “Grunwald Declaration on Media Education” were also renewed at Paris Meeting held in 2007 by declaring that they still remained valid. The fact that the same recommendations were repeated 25 years later may be interprated as to indicate that UNESCO’s activities could not be disseminated and understood sufficiently enough.
After this stage, UNESCO’s studies carried out in connection with “media literacy education” have been dealt with within the framefork of these four main guidelines namely “media education programs”, “training teachers”, “research” and “international co-operation”
1. Media Education Programs
The first of the guidelines of UNESCO keeping the same trend from Grunwald (1982) upto Paris (2007) was the preparation of curriculums about media literacy education. Though this guideline was accepted for the first time in Grunwald in 1982, the book “A General Curricular Model for Mass Media Education” of Sirkka Minkkinen, Finnish Media Expert, sponsored by UNESCO is a sign indicating that UNESCO’s endeavours on this field dates back to previous years. In this book, the writer introduced a curricular model for mass media education intended for secondary education aiming at understanding the different types of media and critical using of these media. The writer not only put emphasis on mass media education and film education, but also expressed the relations between media education and general education, and why media education is necessary (Carlsson, 2006: 181). The organization’s concrete efforts on media literacy curriculums continued even after Grunwald.
One year after calling, in Grunwald, upon the competent authorities of member states “to initiate and support comprehensive media education programs – from pre-school to university level, and in adult education – the purpose of which is to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes which will encourage the growth of critical awareness and, consequently, of greater competence among the users of electronic and print media” and emphasizing that “ideally, such programs should include the analysis of media products, the use of media as means of creative expression, and effective use of and participation in available media channels”, that is, in the year 1983, it was mentioned about the components of a general media literacy curriculum in a study entitled “School Knowledge, Media Knowledge: Media Literacy in Teacher Training and Student Learning” prepared by Masterman with the support of UNESCO. On the other hand, in this study, the issue of how media literacy can be introduced into some curriculums such as “language and literature”, “history”, “geography” and “science” was also touched upon. This study draws attention as it mentions both “a seperate media literacy curriculum” and “media literacy related to the present curriculums”.
UNESCO gave an end to its ten-year silence (tacuturnity / muteness) about media literacy curriculums with two important studies it carried out in 2003 and 2006. These are the studies entitled “Media Education in the Pacific: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers” (UNESCO, 2003) and “Media Education: A Kit for Teachers, Students, Parents and Professionals” (Frau-Meigs, 2006).
The first study “Media Education in the Pacific: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers” (UNESCO, 2003) consists of four chapters. First chapter comprises the subjects such as “the main types of media”, “what does the media do”, “sender, message and receiver” and “building an effective message”. Second chapter deals with the matters such as “media timeline” and “who owns our media”. In the third chapter, four basic media types namely “print media”, “radio”, “television (or movies and video)” and “multimedia” are mentioned in detail. The fourth chapter entitled “The Media and Us” includes three subheadings: (a) Under the subheading “how the media can influence us”, the issues such as “promoting peace and understanding”, “bias in the media”, “violence in the media”, “advertising and media stereotypes” were dealt with. (b) Under the subheading “how we can influence the media”, the matters such as “media laws and letting the media know what we think” were mentioned. (c) Under the subheading “how the media can regulate itself” the subjects such as “professional ethics”, “self-regulatory organisations” and “professional training” were worked on.
As can be understood from its name, the second study “Media Education: A Kit for Teachers, Students, Parents and Professionals” (Frau-Meigs, 2006), focuses mainly on teachers, students, parents and professionals. In this study, a media literacy education consisting of five moduls namely “questioning the media”, “production”, “languages”, “representations” and “audiences” were suggested.
In this context, we can also cite the study “Young Digital Creators; Educator’s Kit” published by UNESCO in 2006. In this study which was prepared depending on the project-based learning approach and from inter-disiplinary point of view, the purpose is to consrtuct a deeper understanding of each other’s cultural values and to share the perspectives relating to global issues of our time. In this 6 week-long study consisting of 13 activities, the target is especially to improve technical skills of the students.
In UNESCO’s “Media Education Seminar” held in Paris, in 2007, a great refraction was observed in the Organization’s standpoint towards this issue. UNESCO, recommending the preperation of curriculums for media education in Grunwald, recommended “the integration of media education in school programs” instead of different curriculums in Paris Seminar in 2007. This important change is the results from UNESCO’s acceptance of media literacy as “a kind of skill approached within the context of life-long learning”.
2. Training Teachers
The second of UNESCO’s four main guidelines is about training teachers. UNESCO’s first significant emphasis on teachers training in the field of media literacy was made in Grunwald in 1982 by saying that: “We therefore call upon the competent authorities to (2) “develop training courses for teachers and intermediaries both to increase their knowledge and understanding of the media and train them in appropriate teaching methods, which would take into account the already considerable but fragmented acquaintance with media already possessed by many students”. Immediately after this stress on teachers training, a workshop entitled “the Use by Teachers of the Mass Media in the Educational Process” (UNESCO, 1983b) was held in Jordan in 1983.
Another study carried out by UNESCO on teachers’ training is “Mentor Project”. This Project is a multilateral programme initiated by UNESCO and supported by the European Commission. It is designed to support media education training in Mediterranean basin countries, and focuses on training secondary school teachers to teach their students to be both critical and effective prosumers, as both producers and consumers of media outputs. The most significant output of the Mentor project is the series of six teacher-training modules focusing on the basic areas of media education training: (1) Cultural Chart, (2) Defining the Media, (3) Media Language, (4) Genres and Contents, (5) Production and Reception (6) Pedagogical Stages (Tornero, 2008: 13).
In its Seminar on Media Education held in Paris in 2007, UNESCO put considerable stress on the issue of training teachers and dealt with it in depth. In recommendation 4 of the Seminar, it was emphasized that initial training of teachers was a key element of the system and it was also expressed that the stakeholders were recommended to integrate media education in the initial training of teachers. The stakeholders were also advised to develop appropriate and evolving pedagogical methods which would change the teacher’s role, ensure greater participation by students, and especially establish closer relations between school and the outside world. In the seminar, it was also expressed that this activity shouldn’t be restricted only with the teachers and that all the stakeholders within the education system were to be mobilized. It was even stated that media education could not be limited to the school environment, and that it was also the concern of families, associations and media professionals. The original idea behind of the recommendation is, as previously stated, UNESCO’s desire to handle the issue of media literacy education within the framework of “lifelong learning”.
The significant emphasise of UNESCO on training teachers didn’t stay as an unrealised wish or a notional though. This issue was presented in a concrete way in the study “Teacher Training Curricula for Media and Information Literacy” written by José Manuel Pérez Tornero (2008). In this study prepared after “International Expert Group Meeting” organized in Paris between the 16th and 18th of June 2008, the objectives, values and attitudes to be covered in a curriculum intended for training of teachers in connection with media and information literacy were listed and, on the other side, valuable opinions on “how the contents of such curricula should be” were presented. The content of the proposed curriculum consists of two seperate sections:
First Section: Theoretical Content
I. Introduction: What is Media and Information Literacy?
II. Understanding Communication and Information
III. Use and Reading of information and the Media: Autonomy and Critical Thinking
IV. Media and Information Literacy Strategies in Education: Promoting Learning in a Media Environment
V. Communication, Production and Participation: Promoting Cultural Diversity
Second section: Practical Knowledge
I. Design, Organization and Development of Communication Processes
II. Advanced Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Educational and Communicational Purposes
III. Design, Organization and Development of School and Educational Media
IV. Design, Organization and Development of Educational Activities Relating to Media Education
V. Design and Application of Media Literacy Assessment Systems
Though media literacy was worked on together with information literacy in the study in question, significant information was supplied on teacher training.
The third of UNESCO’s four main guidelines is the stimulation of the researches and development activities for the benefit of media education. The first significant emphasis of UNESCO on the fostering of researches about media literacy was made in Grunwald in 1982 by calling upon the competent authorities “to stimulate research and development activities for the benefit of media education, from such domains as psychology, sociology, and communication science”. Following this significant emphasis on the researches about media literacy, two bibliographic studies were printed. The first is an annotated bibliography on media literacy education materials written by Lee in 1982. The latter is an annotated bibliography written by Masterman, British Media Trainer, in 1983 and disclosing the studies carried out in England on media literacy. Each of these studies plays a combining role as they exhibit the accumulation reached so far.
Another important and worth-citing research on this field is the study entitled “Learning About the Media” carried out by Halloran and Marcia in 1986. This study comprises three chapters. In the first chapter, main trends in the field of media was dicussed. In the second chapter, different approaches to media education were debated starting off different examples from different countries. In the last chapter, the emphasis was made on the results of Grunwald Symposium and especially on the need for the researches on media. Besides, in addition to general ones, some recommendations in connection with elementary education, teachers and researchers were also articulated.
A study entitled “Media Education: A Global Strategy for Development” were carried out by David Buckingham, British media educator on behalf of UNESCO in 2001. This study focuses on the provision of media education for children and young people of school age. It provides an overall rationale for media education; a brief review of its development around the world; and a succinct definition of the field. It then goes on to outline a strategy for the development of media education internationally, identifying a number of component aspects. It concludes by proposing some ways in which UNESCO might support these initiatives at local, national and international levels. As such, this paper aims to put forward some general parameters for future actions in this field.
Again, in 2001 another survey was carried out. According to the survey conducted by Domaille and Buckingham for UNESCO for the purpose of obtaining information about the aims and methods of media education in different countries, several media education experts mentioned the influence of UNESCO in the history of media education development. These experts also suggested that UNESCO can better help media education movements by providing the following supports: training teachers (including distance learning and local training), promoting international Networks, providing resources for different national contexts, lobbying public policy on media education, assisting the distribution of current research, and supporting new research initiatives (Leaning, 2009: 209).
UNESCO contributes to the dissemination of researches carried out on media education by publishing the studies of the researchers. For instance, research study of Sanjay Astana “Innovative Practices of Youth Participation in Media” was published by UNESCO in 2006. In this study treating mainly innovative approaches and strategies adopted by the youth from twelve developed and underdeveloped countries on “the use of media for social and personal development”. The study would be useful as a research and reference guide to community-based media centres, media education practitioners, non governmental organizations, policy-makers, planners, media professionals, social activists, researchers, etc.
In 2007 in Paris Seminar, UNESCO added the recommendation of creation of a network to its Grunwald recommendation of “stimulating research and development activities for the benefit of media education, from such domains as psychology, sociology, and communication science”. Higher education was accepted as a starting point for the stimulation of the researches on media education. Beause higher education is the bridge between education and research. The creation of networks was recommended for ensuring interaction and sharing of research results. It has been observed that three different networks emerged so far. The first is the network “International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media” appearing on the web site NORDICOM (the Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research, University of Göteborg, Sweden). On this network, one can find measurements, implementations, activities and researches on “media literacy”, “media literacy education” and “participation of the children in the media” and “their media environments”. Another network aiming at contributing media education is the “Media Literacy Education Clearinghouse” established in cooperation with UNESCO within UN project “Alliance of Civilizations” pioneered by Turkish and Spanish Governments. Finally, it can be talk about the official web site of UNESCO which serves as a network and offers the studies, researches and works carried out or supported by UNESCO to the use of researchers.
There are still some other researches carried out or supported by UNESCO. However it is impossible to cite all of researches because of the restricted extent of this present study. Uncited studies can be found on the resources section.
4. International Co-operation
In the last of its four basic recommendations, UNESCO has aimed at encouraging international cooperation in media education. In fact, UNESCO’s studies in this field antedate Grunwald. The study “Media Studies in Education”, prepared with the cooperation of numerous media literacy educators coming from various countries and published in 1977 is an international publication which reflects the present state and progresses of media literacy in the world better than any previous publication. However, the first important call for all nations with regard to the international cooperation, which was voiced in Grunwald, reads as follows: “We have called upon the competent authorities to support and strengthen the actions undertaken or envisaged by itself and which aim at encouraging international co-operation in media education”. The Organization repeated its recommendation in Paris Agenda in 2007 and stated that two important steps were to be taken with a view to implementing the recommendation in question. These steps were “to increase the awareness of political decision-makers” and “to organize and ensure international interactions”.
The Organization has been conducting various activities in different regions of the world aiming at increasing the awareness of political decision-makers and mobilizing them. For instance, a two day symposium on ‘Challenges and Opportunities of Media Education in India’ was co-organized on 20-21 November 2009 by UNESCO, IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University) and SOJNMS (the School of Journalism & New Media Studies) to address the state and status of Media Education in India. The objective was to provide a platform for meaningful deliberations for chalking a roadmap for the future of media literacy education in the country.
One of the most important steps towards international cooperation is the establishment of NORDICOM (The Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research) in 1977 under the sponsorship of Swedish Government and UNESCO. In 1997, the NORDICOM in Sweden took the first steps for the establishment of The International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media (formerly the UNESCO International Clearinghouse on Children and Violence on the Screen). The overall point of departure for the Clearinghouse’s efforts with respect to children, youth and media is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The aim of the Clearinghouse is to increase awareness and knowledge about children, youth and media, thereby providing a basis for relevant policymaking, contributing to a constructive public debate, and enhancing children’s and young people’s media literacy and media competence. Moreover, it is hoped that the Clearinghouse’s work will stimulate further researches on children, youth and media. This foundation, which can be regarded as a UNESCO initiative, has been carrying out various international studies with a view to achieving the recommendations of UNESCO. As an example to this type of activities organized by NORDICOM, we can mention the study “Regulation, Awareness, Empowerment: Young People and Harmful Media Content in the Digital Age” edited in 2005 by Ulla Carlsson as a result of UNESCO’s request from the said foundation for preparation of a publication with regard to “the efforts aimed at diminishing the violence in electronic and digital media” and “innovative approaches”. The phrase “Regulation, Awareness, Empowerment” taking place in the title of the study suggests that whenever “protection of minors against media content” and “reducing the amount of harmful media content” are discussed, media literacy and information literacy must always be taken into consideration. While one chapter of the said study focuses on “media content”, the other chapter handles the theme of “media and internet literacy”.
Another study carried out by NORDICOM is “Empowerment Through Media Education: An Intercultural Dialogue” edited also by Ulla Carlsson and his colleagues with international cooperation in 2008. This publication is based on the “First International Conference on Media Education” held in Riyadh in March 2007, which was filled with cross-cultural dialogues, and on the “International Meeting on Media Education: Progress, Obstacles, New Trends since Grunwald: Towards New Assessment Criteria?” held in Paris in June 2007 and contains the views and experiences of media educators coming from various cultures in connection with the subject. These studies constitute evidence of the size of importance paid by UNESCO to encourage international cooperation in the field of media literacy education.
Another important milestone in this field is the publication of “Mapping Media Education Policies in the World: Visions, Programs and Challenges” coordinated by the United Nations, the Alliance of Civilizations, UNESCO, the European Commission and Grupo Comunicar, and edited by Divina Frau-Meigs and Jordi Torrent in 2009. This Book aims at going beyond common or classical media education curricula through analyzing regulatory and legal frameworks necessary for proliferation of media education programmes. Thus, it is believed that the process of standardization targeting to include media education into education curricula all over the world will be dynamized. Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant Director General for Communication and Information-UNESCO, said that this publication provides answers to key questions for media, communication and education professionals, researchers and policy makers. It considers media education from three inter-related dimensions: media education in the national, regional and global context; the value of media education to citizens and civic participation and how to measure this value, and the crucial role of collaboration among governments, civil society and the private sector in the process (Frau-Meigs and Torrent, 2009: 10).
These studies serve as models for the endeavours of UNESCO in the field of international cooperation. It is an undeniable fact that all UNESCO activities carried out in the field of media literacy are the products of international cooperation. When we examine the congresses, symposiums, workshops, seminars, curricula and researches conducted by UNESCO in connection with the subject in question, it appears that both contexts and wordings of those studies underline the importance of international cooperation. Similarly it can be said that the last recommendation constitutes the base of UNESCO’s policy for media literacy education.
Having examined all of the activities on media literacy education carried out by UNESCO, important conclusions have been reached. The most important conclusion worth citing is the importance attributed to the concept of media literacy by the Organization.
UNESCO considers the media literacy as a skill that has to be handled within the context of lifelong learning. This perspective deeply influences media literacy education and escalates it from the level of being just a “course” or a “curriculum” to the process of being a lifelong learning covering all phases of education including parent’s education, pre-school education, elementary education, secondary education, graduate education and adult education. UNESCO’s starting to question or to try to find the ways of associating media education with other lessons on an interdisciplinary basis (as it did in Paris in 2007) while it was formerly defending and supporting media literacy education curricula (as it did in Grunwald in 1982) is a proof of this escalation or transformation.
On the other hand, there hasn’t been a significant change in UNESCO’s strategy for establishment of an international policy in media literacy education. In Paris in 2007, UNESCO not only renewed its strategy determined in Grunwald, which can be summarized with the headings “education programs”, “teacher’s training”, “research” and “international cooperation”, but also further improved its views regarding this matter. That the same recommendations were repeated after 25 years, which is a quite long period, may either be regarded as an indication of the fact that the accomplished efforts and activities may not have been understood and generalized properly, or as a proof of the fact that UNESCO’s strategy in this respect is correct and it is to be taken into consideration seriously. If the both of the evaluations are right, then it can eventually be said that UNESCO’s strategy and recommendations in connection with media literacy education are right and to be seriously followed. The strategy of the Organization contains important and valuable clues regarding the steps to be taken by every country in the world with regard to their media literacy education. Keeping this fact in mind, UNESCO’s recommendations have to be harkened especially by decision makers, nongovernmental organizations, educators, researchers and media experts of the countries that have just started their journey of media literacy education. The said strategy can be summarized as follows:
• Media literacy has to be seen as a skill to be developed during the whole life, and as a device to understand the society properly and to participate in a democratic life. With a view to attaining that goal, media literacy education should be started before the children start schools and, at the same time, parent’s education should be supported. Professionally prepared comprehensive courses on media literacy education may be integrated into the curricula in elementary, secondary and higher education. And finally, the process of lifelong education may be completed with adult education.
• Media literacy education can also be integrated in the initial training of teachers by mobilizing all the stakeholders within the education system and the other stakeholders of the social sphere, and developing “appropriate and evolving pedagogical methods”.
• Researches, especially interdisciplinary ones, on media literacy education in higher education should be encouraged. Communication networks such as ‘International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media’ may be established for exchange of information and experiences about the researches carried out by various people or organizations.
• Finally, importance should be attached to action-centered international cooperation in order to increase the awareness of society and of all stakeholders, essentially political authorities. Pursuing and participating in the activities and studies conducted by the organizations such as ECML, CLEMI, ACME, CML, CAMEO, AML, ATOM, OFCOM, RAFME, NORDICOM, and particularly by UNESCO and EU in the field of media literacy education, and even hosting these types of activities when the conditions are suitable may promote media literacy education.
It is obvious that UNESCO, which has succeeded invaluable studies regarding media literacy education, will continue to be one of the most important supporters of media literacy education and to conduct new studies about the issue in near future. Consequently, it should be admitted that UNESCO is among the most effective actors that have to be closely followed by every country or researcher interested in this field.
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