Media literacy education in SA can help combat fake news

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On-line platforms are replete with illustrations of wrong facts – from WhatsApp messages punting some miraculous treatment for Covid-19, to social media posts boasting a politician said something they did not.

It is significantly common in South Africa. A lot more than 75% of South Africans say they frequently come across political news they think is bogus. 8 out of 10 South Africans feel that disinformation (or “fake news”) is a issue or a severe difficulty in the nation.

Scientists and policy makers have been functioning on methods to counter disinformation for years. Some policymakers have proposed new rules or pressuring know-how organizations to do extra. These actions frequently raise the concern of how to equilibrium absolutely free speech and regulation.

Yet another option is to raise the degrees of media literacy among the citizens. Media literacy refers to the capability to browse media texts critically, comprehension the romance concerning media and audiences, and realizing how media creation processes get the job done. In distinctive elements of the globe, study has shown that generating people today a lot more media literate can help decrease the distribute of disinformation.

We recently labored with Africa Test, the major fact-examining organisation in Africa, to map out the status of media literacy instructing in five South African provinces.

In a new report, we explain which media literacy competencies are and are not taught in higher colleges and universities, and what is stopping schools and educators from instructing them.

The research is component of a larger sized project to establish sources for media literacy in the state.

We identified that South Africa lacks a in depth national media literacy programme. Usually it comes down to specific academics and colleges to make learners much more media literate.

Some expertise are taught in unique topics, these kinds of as lifetime orientation, technological innovation, language, or history. This means media literacy content material is fragmented, subtle, and constrained. Learners are taught how to use the media, how to continue to be risk-free on the web and how to generate media information, but a lot less emphasis falls on how to reality-verify and validate the media.

Only a single of the provinces we surveyed, the Western Cape, tried using to employ a module on online safety for grades 8 to 12 in 2020 in partnership with Google. Its adoption throughout faculties was confined simply because of the Covid-19 outbreak in the similar calendar year.

The examine

Our report is the to start with in South Africa to survey educators at both of those colleges and universities about their sights on the need to teach media literacy to fight the distribute of disinformation on the net. The findings are based on the responses to an on-line survey presented by 281 educators. We also organised concentrate groups and conducted interviews with policymakers, educators, and media experts.

We asked them how successful media literacy programmes are, what is now getting taught at faculties, and what problems they see in the implementation thereof. We also explored the digital capabilities ranges of teachers and learners, and impediments in the way of broader digital access.

Our research discovered that educators in South Africa agreed with the statement that information literacy is crucial to democracy and that raising the quantity of time invested educating media literacy would assist cut down the amount of money of disinformation circulating in schools (and on the web, in normal).

A existence orientation instructor that we talked to explained educating media literacy was “essential” mainly because

we’re working with day-to-day true circumstances, and the kids can not establish what’s actual and what is bogus, for the reason that they don’t know it.

All the stakeholders incorporated in our study, from educators at distinct ranges of their job to policymakers and specialist media researchers, agreed on the worth of media literacy. But they experienced distinct sights on what exactly should be taught.

For case in point, substantial college educators were extra inclined to introduce learners to how to use distinct media products, come across trusted info sources and be mindful of their on the internet conduct. University lecturers focused extra on how to obtain and critically assess info gleaned from the media.

On line basic safety also showcased higher on the checklist of critical subjects to cover among the large school teachers. One particular explanation for this might be that students usually facial area on the net harassment and bullying, ‘catfishing’ (people working with fake online profiles) scams and equivalent troubles.

Academics are the to start with line of defence when dealing with those people challenges in educational institutions. About 90% of academics we surveyed stated they had seen scenarios of learners sharing misinformation and rumours as the impression beneath displays.

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Inequities in access and bureaucratic processes

We located that media literacy coaching in significant faculty is impeded by several things. Of these, inequities in access to digital products and on line sources is the most significant. Accessibility to the world wide web is possible at most schools. But entry at household is not similarly common. Since teaching media literacy expertise often involves the use of digital devices and obtain to the internet, these inequities are an vital hurdle.

Other impediments incorporate the bureaucratic procedures bordering the implementation of new curricula in South African educational institutions, lack of time and products, and the linguistic diversity across the country’s schools, which would involve the progress of media literacy supplies in unique languages.

One particular closing impediment is the lack of education of educators on the applications and competencies desired to be media literate. We identified widespread arrangement that not all instructors are perfectly enough equipped with media literacy skills. Two in 5 higher school academics think they deficiency the right education. //datawrapper.dwcdn.net/a3PUE/1/

Most of the issues we recognized appeared to take place across the 5 provinces surveyed in the report.

A way ahead

We make several suggestions on how to enhance the total of media literacy taught in South African schools.

First, we caution from 1-dimensions-suits-all strategies. These are sure to fail simply because of differences in entry and means across educational facilities. Treatment should also be taken to create materials in the language most frequently utilised by learners. Supplies should also be age-acceptable and with reference to precise lived encounters of the communities in which they will be applied.

Second, media literacy instructing supplies must have a solid concentration on cellular telephones as automobiles for delivery, owing to their prevalence throughout the place.

Third, presented the bureaucratic impediments to producing and rolling out media literacy curricula countrywide, departments of instruction in just about every province should really be engaged in media literacy curriculum planning.

Ultimately, involving educators and reality-examining organisations, which are at the forefront of the combat versus disinformation, should also be a priority.


Dani Madrid-Morales, Lecturer in Journalism, College of Sheffield and Herman Wasserman, Professor of Media Reports in the Centre for Film and Media Studies, College of Cape Town

This posting is republished from The Conversation underneath a Innovative Commons license. Examine the authentic article.


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