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Global Media and Information Literacy Week: education nurtures informed, engaged and empowered citizens

In the era of fake news, media literacy is essential for democracies the world over. Educators play a crucial role in helping their students become responsible and discerning citizens who can navigate the increasingly complex media landscape and make informed decisions.

Initiated in 2012, the 8th UNESCO-led Global Media and Information Literacy Week will be celebrated from 24-31 October. This Week brings together diverse actors committed to promoting media and information literacy as a way to foster social inclusion and intercultural dialogue.

This year’s theme, “Media and Information Literate Citizens: Informed, Engaged, Empowered”, looks at cities and citizens in the digital age, and focuses on countering disinformation, the hatred and exclusion it can produce, by building people’s media and information literacy competencies.

Media education plays a crucial role in social and democratic development

“Education for democracy, helping our students develop strong critical thinking and media literacy skills is one of our top priorities because it is more important now than ever before. When fake news, alternative facts and disinformation weaken the foundations of democracies across the world, we must mobilise and make sure our students have the tools to discern fact from fiction or half-truths, think critically and make informed decisions,” stressed David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.

Education is also key to building mutual understanding and acceptance, based on dialogue and the shared experiences of students regardless of country of origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Education develops the knowledge, competencies and appetite for active citizenship, so that students can take an active role in shaping their lives and communities.

The 8th Education International World Congress, held in July 2019 in Bangkok, made protecting democracy one of the organisation’s top priorities for the next four years through two resolutions supported by representatives of 32 million educators in over 170 countries: the Resolution on education for democracy and the Resolution on quality public education and free trade unions are the cornerstone of democracy.

Educators take the lead on media education

Worldwide, educators are true to their democratic role and responsibility, and are working on media education.

For instance, in Kosovo, the United Trade Union of Education, Science and Culture of the Republic of Kosovo (SBASHK) provides a series of trainings for teachers. Two programmes have now been delivered, covering media education and skills for strategic planning in education policy. The purpose of these programmes is to stimulate critical thinking, so that participants can understand how the mass media impacts their lives and opinions. Participants learn to understand the ways that the structure, content, and goals of the mass media are used strategically to construct social, cultural and political realities.

In Canada, from 7-11 October, MediaSmarts and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) organised a Media Literacy Week. Teachers and students, libraries and museums, and community groups across the country engaged in activities encouraging Canadians to “Break the Fake” and check information they see online before sharing it. A variety of activities – from classroom-based projects to large-scale public events – took place throughout the week in support of media literacy.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT)Share my Lesson” website also offers a teaching resource on media literacy and fake news. This lesson plan for example is composed of videos to be viewed with students, for them to cultivate an understanding of media literacy and engage in a discussion about its impact and significance for the future.