A Paper Presented at the 2nd Catholic Media Summit on Education Held in Abuja, Nigeria, from the 28th to the 31st of October 2014 by Rev. Fr. Kuha INDYER, CSSp,
All over the world, there is a growing need that media education be included in the school curriculum. Against this background, Australia has been the first country where media education has been made mandatory and part of schooling from kindergarten through twelfth grade (Quin and McMahon, 2001). In Asia, the Philippines has been the first country to integrate media education into the formal school curriculum (Kumar, 1999:245). Many other countries have evaluated the relevance and need for media education and are trying to inculcate it into school curricular.
At the SIGNIS World Congress held in Rome in the year 2014, on the theme: ‘Media For a Culture of Peace’ I attended a workshop on media education. In attendance was the bishop in charge of communications Directorate in Nigeria, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo. During presentations on the topic, Media Education, from countries such as the Philippines and Fuji Island, I told the Bishop that he should try to see how we could lobby the government to include media education in schools. I knew that it would not be a one day job so I suggested that we could start with catholic schools. The bishop told me that we, meaning – the religious, could help in this respect. Following the bishop’s appeal that religious lead the way in this area, I discussed the issue with the Director of Communications at the Catholic Secretariat, Abuja, Rev. Fr. Dr. Chris Anyanwu and he was pleased with the idea. He asked that I prepare a paper for presentation at the second summit on education to be held in Abuja in October, 2014.
What is Media Education?
According to Jacob Srampickal and Leela Joseph,(2002) ‘Media Education is an attempt at making media users critically conscious of the impact of media on their lives, in order to enable them to become creative users of the media. It may be defined as a process of education by which PEOPLE become aware of the ways in which the various media influence their thinking, affect their value system and change society. As a result, they become critical and discerning receivers of media messages capable of demanding quality media programmes and even creating their own media. They are thus able to respond intelligently to media creations and manipulations.’
Why Media Education?
The child of today is born in a multi-media culture. He does not only depend on old means of mass media for his information as he wakes up checking his e-mails, receiving current news from the face book, goes onto the World Wide World to check the news of the day. Thus, before he is out of his bedroom, he knows what is happening around his environment in particular and the world in general. This is contrary to olden days’ system when one depended on the newspaper in the morning, the radio and television at night to get news around his environment of relevance as well as news on international issues.
In another development, the school, which was considered as the second means of socialization, competes with the various social media. The new media have taken this role. Roxana Morduchowicz (2008) says: ‘The media and information technologies have become a place for today’s youth – sometimes, the only place that speaks about them and to them.’ He contends that understanding how the media represent reality and tell us about what is going on can put people in a better position to participate, act and make decisions. He therefore observes that the challenge of today’s schools is to recognize that knowledge is spread and circulates in new ways. He is of the view that with Gutenberg, in the 15th century, we say that society moved from oral to written culture. In the 20th century, we took the giant step from the culture of words to images. Now, in the 21st century, we have taken the next step, from linear reading to simultaneous perception.
Today’s adolescents live in a different cultural experience from their elders, with new ways of perceiving, feeling, listening and seeing. These dimensions must not be skipped over in media education.
Faced with this new cultural reality, there is no point in becoming alarmed or reacting defensively. What society and especially school must do is analyse the way to get closer to youth culture (or not).
Garcia Canclini, (2006) is of the view that ‘If we agree that young people also build their cultural capital outside the classroom, and even in relatively autonomous settings, school can no longer be viewed as the only legitimate place to convey pre-established symbolic baggage.’
School, however, does not always seem to be catching on. So the result is that school culture remains out of touch with youth culture. Youth go ahead in a universe governed by parameters different from those legitimized by school culture.
From its beginnings, school – born with the printing press – has always been most closely linked to print culture. Schools have lived in a world ruled by the logic of books, linearity and sequential order. Schools since then, and to this day, continue along the pathway of writing, words and textbooks. And schools have often ignored the cultures that have begun emerging and are co-existing with them outside the classroom such as movies; television and new technologies. This traditional concept of schools has widened the divide between the culture from which students learn and the culture from which teachers give class.
Martin Barbero (2003) maintains that the challenge for today’s schools is to recognize that knowledge is spread and circulated in new ways. Two changes have been keys to this process – de-centering and –de-timing.
De-centering means that knowledge is no longer the exclusive domain of books and schools, but is also beginning to circulate through other spheres, such as the media.
De-timing means that knowledge has slipped free of the timeframe socially legitimized for distributing and acquiring knowledge. Time for learning has until now been circumscribed within an age range. Now, although school-age has not gone away, its existence is shifting. What we learn at school must fit in with learning that comes through other sources, learning freed of the boundaries marked by age. This learning transcends the schoolroom, lives at all times and spreads lifelong.
The great challenge of today’s educational system is to train children and youth to access and use the multiple ways of writing and thinking that lead to the decisions affecting them at work, at home, in politics and economics.
Roxana Morduchowicz advances reasons why media education should be taken on board.
Why Incorporate Media Education?
There are very many reasons that call for integration of media education in schools. The following are some of the most important reasons:
• There is a great flood of information that children receive outside school, much of it from the media. Schools should be where all this information flows together, albeit often contradictory and confusing at times for students.
• The media and technologies grant access to contexts and realities that we would otherwise miss. The media, and more recently Internet, propose new concepts of time and space, which schools must teach kids to understand.
• The media and technologies construct a picture of the world on the basis of which each of us builds our own. It is important for schools to teach students to critically analyze the way media represent reality, so students are better prepared to build their own images, representations and opinions.
• For many children and young people, pop culture gives them meaning to construct their identity. They learn to talk about themselves in relation to others. If school is to get closer to them, to narrow the gap between school and youth culture, it must integrate pop culture, which wields such weight in constructing their identity.
• In Latin American societies, access to the media and technologies is quite uneven and the digital divide is very deep. Schools can (and must) achieve a better distribution of information and knowledge, above all, among those with the least access to them.
• Information for information’s sake is not enough. Only schools can turn information into knowledge. Teaching to read, interpret, analyze, evaluate messages broadcast by the media is a task that, for many students, only the educational system can handle.
• We live in a multicultural society, because we live alongside various languages and cultures. Young people must learn to read a hard-copy text (books, newspapers, magazines) but also to make use of the multiple languages circulating socially: visual, audiovisual and hypertext language.
• Media education, finally, reinforces students’ social and civic education and participation.
Against this backdrop the youth needs to be equipped to deal with the vast amount of information that circulates in the media rich environment. It is in this perspective that media education as an intellectual and critical engagement helps people to make a better sense of the different media products available In this regard, the youth is trained to evaluate the media they read, hear, and see and to speak for themselves.
In their book, Conversation Across Cultures: Youth Media Visions (2014), Laia Sole and Jordi Torrent maintain that:
‘ As participants in the ‘informational society’, youth are digital users, creators and consumers. The most avid media makers today are not professionals, but young people who are actively engaged with their worlds. Contemporary media offer unprecedented opportunities to generate and distribute information, motivating young people and facilitating interaction. Knowledge is no longer something that is kept and then transmitted to students, but something that can be collectively created and shared.’
Youth- produced media is a main component of today’s society. Young people are constantly producing and sharing media; in a way it is their main mode of self-expression, of reassuring themselves that they are in the world, that they are alive. But creating and sharing media per se – as important as it is – is not truly as essential as that young people producing media become aware (ethically aware) of the role and significance that media has in our communities. This awareness is the terrain of Media and Information Literacy.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the importance of the media in children’s and young people’s development. The media is seen as playing a crucial role in shaping societal attitudes towards children’s rights, equipping children with information central to their wellbeing in a child friendly environment, and soliciting youth’s views on matters that affect them. However, through the production of their own media, youth can be empowered to tell their stories about the issues that they see as most important, and to share these with the world. Producing media is a way for youth to creatively engage with their society, their family, their friends, themselves. It allows them to create their own media representations, and to become aware of the ethical responsibilities of their media messages.’
In sum, there is need to introduce media education in our institutions of learning because as AML (1989) puts it, ‘Media literacy is a life skill.’
In this presentation I have tried to give a brief introduction to the reason why the write up. It is aimed at persuading the state and the church to introduce media education in our institutions of learning. This is on the count that the media affects all aspects of life and at the moment, for the youth, the new media, for instance, serve as a great tool for education, information and entertainment. We must teach the youth to learn how to use the media responsibly; else, they will use it wrongly. The classroom is the ideal place to teach the responsible use of the media.
I propose the following
The Catholic Church in Nigeria should set up a committee to draw up media curriculum for our. primary and post primary schools ( I have a copy of this curriculum developed for the church in the Philippines).
Media education should be taught in our primary and post primary institutions.
The Catholic Church should lobby the government to introduce media education in our institutions of learning.