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Media Literacy Requirement for National Curriculum


MediaLiteracy Requirement for National Curriculum

Technologicalexplosion has invaded the 21stcentury at an unprecedented scale. Children are getting exposure tomedia even before attending school. These media forms includetelevision set at home, video, and internet through cell phones andother gadgets. Thenumber of children with access to various media forms has escalatedin the last decade(Frechette 2002).

Theeducation sector has embraced media literacy with varying levels ofsuccess. While some have viewed it as a challenge and distractionfrom traditional learning, others have embraced it as a way ofpreparing learners for life outside school. Yet, others have decidedto postpone it to tertiary level. Reports indicate that introducingmedia literacy at primary and secondary level accrues immensebenefits for individual learners and society(Leaning 2009).This paper will propose a media literacy requirement for nationalcurriculum.

MediaLiteracy in Perspective

Medialiteracy is a broad term encompassing the process of helping learnersand users develop a better and deeper grasp of the media. Macedo(2007, p. 26)defines it a process towards helping “students develop an informedand critical understanding of the nature of mass media, thetechniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques.”Essentially, the process aid to interact with media from a point ofinformation. It arises from cognisance of the fact that for media tobe helpful, people have to understand it. This understanding willfoster an interaction that will make both producers and consumers ofmedia content more competent.

Lopez(2008, p. 34)defines media literacy as the “ability to access, interpret,analyze, evaluate, and use all forms of media.” This definitionencompasses old, new, and emergent media forms. In a world thatrevolves around media, ranging from newspaper, television, and socialmedia, media illiteracy is very dangerous. The media is awash willall sorts of information, some factual, others lies, dogmas,fallacies, and propaganda. Lack of media literacy leaves consumer atthe mercies of information producers. People who lack this literacyare easy to manipulate, misguide, and control(Burn &amp Durran 2007).The literacy is very vital in preservation of civilization, socialvalues, democracy, and governance. Quintessentially, media literacyshould not just equip learners to be critical consumers but alsocompetent producers of information. Lopez(2008, p. 36)argues that towards this end, educational system should introducemedia literacy as early as the learner begins interacting withvarious media forms. This will establish a proper foundation uponwhich to build future lessons on the subject.

Givenits significance to the society, the question is where, in history,to begin teaching media. Scholars like Martens(2010, P.13) explainthat it is important when learners have a historical perspective ofthe media in order to appreciate how it has evolved and thusunderstand it better. To such scholars, a media lesson should startby going back to the beginning, for instance, 15thcentury for printing machine. This form of mentality lacksappreciation of the workload that schools subject learners nowadays.Additionally, the history of a media does not necessary contribute tolearners’ understanding of the information it possess (Webber&amp Johnston, 2003).It is therefore needless and time wasting to subject learners tohistorical lessons on media at the expense of how to analyze andevaluate the content. The best way forward is to gloss through thehistory and delve deeper into the content.

Content-drivenVersus Skills-driven Curriculum

Havingsettled the question of why and when to introduce media literacy, itis important to discuss the how. Educationists have oscillatedbetween selecting content-driven and skills-driven without consensus(Kellner&amp Share 2007).To arrive at the right curriculum, it is important to keep therationale for media literacy at the heart of the matter. Hart(2008. p.29)summarises its aim as to “promote critical thinking, problemsolving, and communication skills.” These skills will empowerlearners to interact with media content more critically andcommunicate their message in media articulately.

Themost appropriate curriculum is a blend of the two, in order toproduce critical consumers and articulate producers. Content-drivencurriculum will equip learners with the right concepts to analyse andevaluate media content. Since the literacy should also make them goodproducers, a skills-driven curriculum is indispensible. Hobbs(2005, p.650)argues that media literacy is very important to be treated like arudimental subject. The ubiquitous nature of media forms, the latestbeing social media, medial literacy should enjoy the same status withmathematics and languages. This justifies the adoption of acombination of the two curriculums.

Educationalfacilities should have media literacy as a core non-elective subject.Christand Potter (1998, p.34)argue that in this lesson, teachers should adopt a highly interactiveapproach so that learners relate classroom content with the realityoutside the school. The lesson should equip learners withoperational skills that will help them become competent creators ofmedia content. However, Share(2009, p.47)advocates for “minimised cumulative instructional time spent inoperational skills in order to focus on thoughtful and effectiveacademic productions.” Essentially, teachers must avoid a teachingapproach that deposits information on learners without allowingfreethinking.

Askills-driven curriculum will allow learners try out and experimentwhat they learned in core media class. For instance, a teacher canuse instructional strategies and content that employ operationalskills from media literacy classes. In a speaking and listeningEnglish class, the teacher can ask students to listen and report tothe class on the same. This will inculcate a wide range of languageand media skills. Learners will become good listeners. Similarly,they will learn to respond to media content. If the teacher iseffective, students will learn analytical and evaluating skills. Forinstance, the teacher can ask the students to say whether they agreewith the media content and provide reasons. As Mihailidis(2009, p.12) argues,students become more critical and analytical when they begin doubtingthings at an early age. Content-driven and skills-driven curriculumwould therefore be complementary in teaching media literacy.

Severalvalues should accompany media literacy. The first one is efficiency.The project should not escalate the cost of education needlessly at atime that many parents face other equally pressing financialpriorities. Secondly, it should be convenience for all stakeholders.This entails making sure that rooms are adequate, well lit, spacious,and properly equipped. Additionally, media literacy should enhancelearners’ understanding of issues and contribute to enlightenment.In a world where information trickles fast and vast amounts, learnersshould have enough enlightenment to make the most out of their lives.

MediaLiteracy: Free Standing versus Integration

Likeany other emerging subject media literacy has split opinions as towhether it should be a free standing subject or teachers canintegrate it into other subjects. Among the prominent argument for itto be free standing is that the world is changing to a situationwhere the media will influence everything (Pinkletonet al 2008).With high levels of media illiteracy, a cabal of unscrupulous canhold people at ransom and destroy civilization. While there isconsensus that media literacy is extremely vital, there are those whoargue that making it a freestanding subject will overburden students,escalate, cost, permeate rote and inconsequential learning habits andexacerbate the situation rather than solving it.

Furthermore,opponents of making media literacy a freestanding subject argue thatthe field is very dynamic and lacking the basic theoretical conceptsto warrant consideration as a subject (Frechette2002).Hobbs(2005, p.869) supportsthe same type of thinking by arguing that media literacy does notmeet the threshold of a rigorous and credible educational system. Totheir defence too, media is awash with much dirty, amorous, andimmoral content and media literacy would inadvertently exposestudents who may not have had the exposure, ordinarily.

Asconvincing as they may sound, the above oppositions lack fullappreciation of the potential of media literacy to transform societyradically. Frechette(2002, p.32)reports that by the age of 3-4 years, more than 90% of children indeveloped nations have had interactions with more than one mediaform. Further, media’s influence has grown tremendously in shapingpeople’s opinion, lifestyle, and beliefs. If students learn mediastudies sparingly, as opponents of the subject as free standing areadvocating, we will be putting the future generation at the brink ofa precipice. As Hobbs(2005, p.870) explains,media’s content is too broad to be covered within other subjects.Instead, it is more appropriate and beneficial, if possible, to teachother subjects through media.

Withexplosion of technological devise and ease in their access, studentsare finding it equally easy to do research. A report by Mills(2010, p.250) showsthat many students are copying information from the internet insteadof doing thorough and objective studies. This is, largely, because ofmedia illiteracy. If media literacy is a freestanding subject, itwould be easy to teach students how to use internet for research in amore comprehensive and helpful manner. Consequently, students willunderstand, from an early age, how to use various media forms fortheir benefits rather than harm.

Theargument that making media literacy a freestanding subject willoverburden students is feeble and untrue. Instead, integrating itwith other subjects would be more burdensome. It will preventteachers of other subjects from focusing fully on their subject (Wan&amp Gut 2008).Rather than make another subject broader, for instance English, it ismore rational to create time for media literacy as a freestandingsubject.

Orderof Learning Media Literacy

Potter(2010,p.680) argues that children get a good impression of theirsurrounding through experiments. However, the prevalence of massmedia has made experimentation impossible. Children are learningabout themselves and their surroundings through the media, somethingthat could ruin their perception of the world. He provides importantdata that can guide media literacy lessons. Preschools children spend3-4 hour in a day interacting with mass media tool. At high schoollevel, hours vary from 3-7 especially where there is access tointernet. At the pre-primary and lower primary level, focus should beto build learners’ consciousness with technological devices. Yus(2006, p.955)advices that this would familiarise learners with media and make themunderstand that though important, there are many other importantthings in life. Before progression to upper primary, learners shouldbe able to analyse pictures and decipher the feelings in the visuals.The teacher should guide the students to discover that sometimesvisuals carry misleading emotions. The emphasis here should be ontelling what is real from what is fiction.

Atthe upper primary level, students should be able read and analysedifferent media forms. For instance, a teacher can come up with apicture and ask students to develop arguments from it. Once studentshave mastered the art of analysing and responding to mass mediamessages, efforts should shift to media production. According tostudents’ interest, each one of them should be in a position tomanipulate media gadgets like cameras and generate messages fromthem. Emphasis should be on accuracy and ability to communicateconcisely, clearly, and articulately.

Athigh school level, efforts should be on using multiple mass media toproduce information. Teachers should encourage students to createblogs and micro blogs and update them on a regular basis. This isachievable by asking students to compare and contrast point of viewsfrom more than one text on related subjects.


Mediais a very powerful tool in shaping a society. Societies with littlemedia literacy suffer greatly because those in control of informationcan manipulate them easily. It is for these reasons that countrieslike Canada have placed a lot of emphasis on media literacy. Unlessthis happens in our society, our civilization is doomed.


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