Media education has been around for quite some time in the West (Bazalgette et al., 1990) and started to gain acceptance in Asia (Cheung 2005), particularly in Hong Kong in the last decade from a term little known to now where there is an increasing number of schools adopting media education as part of the curriculum or extra-curricular activities. In Hong Kong, media education is not the only ‘subject’ demands for curricular space. Over the last ten years, the importance of sex education, environmental education, civic education have been emphasized but still could not gain much ground in the school timetable and are considered as marginalized curriculum. What happen then to spur the development of media education in Hong Kong? This paper attempts to explore how education reform in the last decade has facilitated the growth of media education in Hong Kong.
Thedevelopment of media education has been fast in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong isa media rich city, media education is a term unheard of till the nineties whenthe University of Hong Kong offered it as an elective course to participants ofits Postgraduate in Certificate of Education program in 1996. Publication wise,the first academic article written about media education in Hong Kong appearedin 2001 (Cheung 2001). During the next ten years, the growth of media educationin Hong Kong has become prominent and among many factors accounting for itsgrowth, the reform in education bears the most significance.
Societynow is very different from what it used to be 10 years ago. In order to keeppace with the changing world and to nurture students fulfilling the needs oftomorrow society, education reform is inevitable. The new wave of educationreform set new agendas in education. Apart from the traditional emphases onethics, intellect, physique, social skills and aesthetics, schools in Hong Kongwere expected to produce a new generation of students who could learn on theirown, think for themselves, and explore new arenas of learning. These reformshave influenced, directly or indirectly, the development of media education inHong Kong (Figure 1).
Achronology of change (Figure 1)
i. Thepromotion of civics education after returning to China sovereignty in 1997
Fok(1997) asserted that civic education has never had an important place in theHong Kong school curriculum. This is understandable as Hong Kong was still aBritish colony before 1997 and the cultivation of the love of one’s own motherlandwould not be the priority then. After the signing of the Sino-British Declaration in 1984 and with thepolitical reform towards representative government in 1984 and the 1997 issue,there has been an upsurge interest in and concern for civic education.
Though civic education isregarded as an important area to be taught, especially after Hong Kong’s returnof sovereignty to mainland China, teachers express difficulties in teachingcivic education (Cheung & Leung, 1998). In the West, research shows thatthe traditional expository strategies are dominant but ineffective in theteaching of civic education (Sears, 1994). Too bad this traditional way ofteaching strategy is still a dominant way of teaching civic education in HongKong. What is more, when coming to the discussion of structure of thegovernment and various legal and social policies, students show little interestas they are not familiar with the contents taught and these issues bear norelevance to students’ daily lives. What students need is a kind ofparticipative, active learning about civics and citizenship instead (Print& Smith, 2000). The logic is obvious. When students participate in thelearning of civic education in schools, they would have the habit ofparticipating actively as citizens when they become adults.
Cheung(2004) believes this difficulty could be solved using media education to teachcivics education. The relationship between media education and civic educationis clear. Ahonen & Virta (1999) asserts: ‘Citizens’ action and criticalthinking in the information society are linked with communication skills andthe capacity to influence others. Media education can therefore be considered akey area in civics’ (p.248). In1999, a study of civic education across twenty-four countries was conducted andthe term ‘mass media’ and ‘media education’ appeared very frequently in nearlyalmost every case (Torney-Purta, Schwille, Amadeo, 1999).
In Hong Kong, the mass media is identified as animportant factor in civic education (Lee, 1999). Media education is crucial tohelp students analyze the media messages as ‘it is the mass media which havetaken the initiative in providing information about politics and governmentfrom their own perspectives, resulting in a rather varied presentation of thenews’ (p.332). In response, ‘the school practitioners in particular emphasizedthe need for media education’ (p.338). Cheung (2005) traced the development ofcivic education in Hong Kong, examining the civic education guidelines invarious years, concluded that ‘Global change is shaping the future direction ofeducation in Hong Kong. In the past twenty years, the place of media educationin civic education has gradually changed. From serving as factual examples ithas developed into discussion, and from a very small part in the curriculum ithas expanded to certain major parts of key learning areas, and has becomeincreasingly important as a part of civic and moral education’ (41). His otherresearch (2004) shows that civic education lessons are most appropriate in theteaching of media education.
Theteaching of media education adopts an interactive approach where students haveto analyze critically the messages conveyed from the media. Through mediaeducation, young people’s awareness of economic, political, as well as socialissues will be increased, as images received from the mass media will motivatethem to discuss and learn, leading them to inquire into and understand issuesin society, in order to become better participative democratic citizens (Kubey,2004; Cheung, 2006).
ii. The introduction ofInformation Technology (IT)
Everycoin has two sides. On one hand the introduction of IT helps transform learningand teaching, the growth of internet also gives rise to many problems. In HongKong, a study showed that television has now been joined by the attractions ofthe Internet, which is increasingly used by young people for communication,enjoyment, and obtaining information (Breakthrough, 2003). Students do not onlyneed the training of IT skills, but also the critical literacy skills to help themsurvive in the cyberspace where information is most often overloaded and sometimesconfusing. Media education is about the encoding and decoding of media messages,nurturing students to be more critical in the reception of messages, and ‘read’in a critical manner Frechette (2002).
Besides equipping our students with the necessary skillsfor the future workplace, IT has a profound impact on teaching and learning.Students can now explore and learn information by themselves in their own timeand space. With the implementation of IT in education, there will be a“paradigm shift” from a largely textbook-based and teacher-centred approach toa more interactive and learner-centred approach. The teaching of mediaeducation fits in. It requires an approach very different from the traditional“chalk and talk” method. Students are encouraged to find out informationthrough the encoding and decoding of media messages, and by engaging activelyin media production to become critical viewers of the media. In mediaeducation, the main focus is on children-centred learning. This requires amedia pedagogy which encourages investigation and critical and reflectivethinking on the part of students.
Learning by doing is important. Students areencouraged to explore learning at a deep and meaningful level. When IT is fullyimplemented in schools in the last few years, students are able to be engagedin media production, providing a platform for students to immerse in learningthrough exploring and doing. In the past, it was difficult for pupils toparticipate in media production as equipment was expensive and required a highlevel of skill to operate. This is no longer the case, as advances incommunication technologies have made the cost of purchasing equipment moreaffordable and the skills needed to operate equipment more easily acquired.Today, even primary pupils are able to produce a video on their own.
At present, media education in Hong Kong is practicedin number of ways. Some schools have introduced media education lessons intothe school curriculum, while others make use of campus radio or campus TV as akind of media education. The latter is particularly popular with the socialservice sector, local media production groups, and individual practitioners.The reasons are simple. Media production gives pupils a sense of satisfactionwhen products are created. Studentscan now hold the digital camera, or sit in the control room to operate thepanel, and feel that they have some control over what they want to learn.
iii. Education blueprint forthe 21st century: review of academic system
Inthe document Education blueprint for the 21st century: review ofacademic system published in 1999,words like student-centered, self-learning, and motivation were mentionedfrequently. Moreover, the document questioned whether the media are ‘aware oftheir powerful influence on the formation of values and learning of language bythe young people’ and should the media ‘disseminate information to the public,and help young people develop positive values, distinguish right from wrong andbroaden their horizons’? (Education Commission, 1999, p.28). That sets the tonefor media education where it aims to help students develop logical and creativethinking, through the critical analysis of the media messages that they areexposed to everyday. The nature of media education is student-centered andstudents are more motivated to learn through discussing the contents theyenjoy. Furthermore, they could engage in producing media products in the formof campus newspaper, radio, and TV creatively at a later stage.
Anothersuggestion from the document is the introduction of key learning areas toreplace the fixed subject boundaries. One of these key learning areas wasPersonal, Social and Humanities Education (PSHE). Media education, a relativelynew concept which had not earlier been covered in the Education Department’sofficial guidelines, was here described as an element in cross-curricularprograms, a possible component of this key learning area in the consultativedocument. This was an indication of a growing awareness on the part of policymakers. Media education was finally on the official agenda.
iv TheNew Senior Secondary Curriculum
HongKong is now conducting a review of the academic structure of senior secondaryeducation (EMB, 2003). In this proposal, there will be a new restructuring insubjects available to students. Among them, Liberal Studies, Chinese language,English, and Mathematics are core subjects to be taken by students and thefirst three have components closely related to media education.
LiberalStudies is a subject developed in the early nineties but not many schools haveadopted it in its curriculum. The situation will change as Liberal Studies willbe a core subject and the component of media education is recognized as statedin the document (EMB, 2003).
Moreover,students are required to conduct an Independent Enquiry Study and Media is oneof the six suggested themes. In order to facilitate the teaching and learningof Liberal Studies, a series of teaching training courses are offered and someof them are conducted by the Hong Kong Association of Media Education, focusingon the use of media education to teach Liberal Studies.
Thenew Chinese Language syllabus contents are more contemporary, relevant tostudents’ daily encounter. Among the nine generic skills mentioned, thecritical thinking skills are especially related to mass media. Indeed, the Guide explicitly cites as examples of activities thatfoster critical thinking “reading newspapers and magazines, listening to radiosand watching televisions, comparing and contrasting how different media coverthe same event, and evaluating information for authenticity.” (Guide, p. 21) For these media-related activities to beeffective, some forms of media education are essential. Such education may takethe form of introducing and elaborating on the central concepts of mediaeducation (e.g. constructed reality, meaning negotiation, and media bias), orit may take the form of student-centered analysis and production.
Mediaeducation is widely taught in Language Arts in many countries (Hart, Hammettand Barrell, 2002) and researches indicate that on receiving media educationtraining, students perform better in reading, writing and listening skills(Hobbs and Frost, 1998).
TheGuide recommends several types ofactivities for developing the generic skill of Creativity (Guide, p.52), among which many may be combined with someform of media education. For instance, it was suggested that students’creativity be strengthened through “reading and listening to a broad range ofimaginative texts including poems, novels, short stories, plays, films, jokes,advertisements, songs, radio, and television programmes, and demonstratesensitivity in their critical appreciation of these texts (ibid.)” Most ofthese ‘imaginative texts’, however, are not print-based and thus have adifferent grammar which students may not find familiar. The “reading andlistening” of these texts will be greatly facilitated if students are equippedwith the skills required to appreciate and make sense of such non-traditionaltexts, and this is exactly what media education is designed to achieve.
Figure1 depicts a chorology of change in educational reform and how media educationfits in
Thediscussion on media education has been on the rise in recent years both on alocal and international perspective with many countries adopted it in their curriculumin one way or another. While media education is not a formal subject in the HongKong curriculum, there are arguments to support its inclusion in light ofcurrent educational reforms. Themain focus of this paper is on how education reform has provided a platform forthe development of media education in the last decade.
Afterthe return of sovereignty to China, civic education is more prominent in the HongKong curriculum. Research shows the relationship between civic education andmedia education while the latter supports the creation of informed andparticipatory citizens though necessitating them to become critical of themessages with which they are surrounded as ‘Media education will help studentsto become better informed citizens and that critical viewing will stimulatecritical thinking’ (Cheung, 2004, p.49).
The introduction of IT isalso significant. The media age is impacting our students and shaping the typesof learners they are becoming. The heavy use of IT could make one addicts tonet surfing, but not necessarily help students become critical uses of IT. Currentstudents are highly competent in accessing information, being as they are, theInternet generation. However, arestudents self-directed in their learning? Can they originate ideas or can they merely imitate or reproducethem? In other words, how activelyengaged in their learning processes are Hong Kong students and are educators inHong Kong faced with Giroux’s (1988) claim that mass media is turning ourpopulations into receptive spectators rather than active participants? If we want our students to become active or criticalthinkers, and more than that, to become empowered learners, the introduction ofmedia education can be useful, and media production could be a useful means tostart.
Thedevelopment of media education is further enhanced by the education reform. TheNew Senior Secondary Curriculum paths the way for more inclusion of media educationas its components appear in the core subjects. As stated previously, Hong Kongis a particularly media-rich city, students, as the foci of a significantproportion of media messaging, are particularly well positioned to launch intocritical investigation of media: more simply put, media is already part of HongKong students’ daily ‘curriculum’. Integrating it into the classroom as part ofstudents’ daily studies, then, seems an organic curricular process.
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