In New Zealand, media teaching is in very good health and continues to grow, both in secondary (high) schools and in the tertiary sector. It has official recognition and support, in the secondary sector, through the inclusion of Media Studies in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), as well as the higher level of Scholarship. It is visible, progressive and measurable, based around a coherent body of knowledge—with a sharper edge and intent than the less well-focused concept of media literacy.
Medialiteracy is now regarded by many policy makers as a core skill for citizenshipin the 21st century but until its objectives are clarified andmethods of effective learning and assessment are developed, the defaultposition for creating a media literate population remains within formaleducation. The strengths in suchteaching resides in a structured approach to learning, whereby students bringtheir prior knowledge, to begin the process of matching theory to practice, andindividual experience to larger social and political contexts.
NCEAprovides the framework for New Zealand secondary education, and in 2006 therewere more than 45,000 enrolments in Media Studies. Media also persists as amajor strand (Visual Language) in the national English curriculum.
Themajor achievements have been this official recognition, whereby Media Studiessits comfortably beside longer established subjects such as English andHistory. Media Studies no longerhas to argue for its rightful place in New Zealand schools. There has also beenstrong growth in the tertiary sector, with a wide range of media-relatedteaching in universities such as the University of Waikato, the University ofAuckland and the New Zealand Broadcasting School.
Thelong-established National Association of Media Educators (NAME) continues totake a leading role in promoting the subject. From its beginnings in the early 1980s, Media Studies hasbeen developed and moderated by teachers, and continuously re-evaluated to meetstudent and teacher interests, as well as taking account of technologicalchange. It is media teachers who are best equipped to incorporate newtechnology into the classroom, as well as providing students with the means tocomprehend the social and cultural impact of newer means of communication, suchas blogging and podcasting.
Thereare a few problems; some universal, some particular to New Zealandcircumstances. Teacher training institutions continue to neglect media training(despite its strong growth in schools) but graduates from tertiary courses arebeginning to make an impact. Access to up-to-date resources is always a problem but this isimproving, through resource-sharing, advisory services, NAME-sponsoredworkshops and Ministry of Education-sponsored conferences and web-basedresources. New Zealand-specific teaching resources are becoming more numerous.
There isalso a need to extend co-operation between secondary and tertiary mediateaching, and the wider community. The Broadcasting Standards Authority, whichregulates television and radio, has made media literacy one of its priorities.
Debate also continues about the pros andcons of a nationally-mandated curriculum/framework in secondary schools. In the meantime, in the absence of sucha NCEA framework, NCEA Media Studies provides a ‘proxy’ curriculum. Indeed, such a clear method forassessing the outcomes of media teaching has proven to be critical in thedevelopment of the subject, and its rapid embrace of an ever-changing medialandscape. Indeed, one could arguethat assessment should come before curricula.
Acombination of factors is driving growth: the official recognition of Media Studies in formal education; theemergence of new, enthusiastic teachers, joining a sizeable body of experiencedteachers; continuing demand for the subject from students; the critical role ofNAME, in promoting the subject; new media forms to teach about, with rapidshifts in technology.
In theearly years, media teaching models from the United Kingdom, Australia andCanada provided inspiration for New Zealand teachers. In more recent years, there has been greater confidence indeveloping local (New Zealand) models of teaching/assessment, and resources.There is also a strong emphasis on studying New Zealand media, with a focus sharpened in the wakeof the global success of major films shot in New Zealand (The Lord of theRings trilogy, KingKong, The Adventures of Narnia), as well as a vigorous localfilm and television industry. In respect of national priorities, the screenindustry has become as important as New Zealand’s two other staple industries(horticulture and forestry)
I wouldargue that New Zealand media teaching offers inspiration for other countriesand circumstances, most especially in providing a model of a well-designed,national initiative that might well produce a well-informed, media literatecitizenry.
AssocProf Geoff Lealand
Screenand Media Studies