Media literacy education in SA can help combat fake news

Mabel R. Acton

Online platforms are replete with illustrations of wrong facts – from WhatsApp messages punting some miraculous remedy for Covid-19, to social media posts declaring a politician mentioned some thing they did not.

It is ever more prevalent in South Africa. Extra than 75% of South Africans say they frequently occur throughout political news they imagine is false. Eight out of 10 South Africans believe that disinformation (or “fake news”) is a difficulty or a critical problem in the place.

Scientists and plan makers have been performing on tactics to counter disinformation for years. Some policymakers have instructed new regulations or pressuring engineering organizations to do a lot more. These actions often increase the problem of how to balance free of charge speech and regulation.

Yet another possibility is to enhance the levels of media literacy amongst citizens. Media literacy refers to the means to study media texts critically, comprehension the marriage among media and audiences, and being aware of how media generation procedures perform. In distinct sections of the environment, investigation has proven that earning individuals much more media literate can help lessen the distribute of disinformation.

We just lately labored with Africa Check out, the major truth-examining organisation in Africa, to map out the status of media literacy educating in five South African provinces.

In a new report, we explain which media literacy competencies are and are not taught in superior faculties and universities, and what is halting schools and educators from teaching them.

The research is section of a bigger task to build assets for media literacy in the nation.

We identified that South Africa lacks a comprehensive countrywide media literacy programme. Normally it will come down to particular person teachers and universities to make learners extra media literate.

Some capabilities are taught in diverse subjects, such as lifestyle orientation, know-how, language, or heritage. This indicates media literacy content is fragmented, diffused, and restricted. Learners are taught how to use the media, how to remain safe and sound on the internet and how to create media articles, but much much less target falls on how to fact-test and confirm the media.

Only a person of the provinces we surveyed, the Western Cape, tried out to put into action a module on on the web basic safety for grades 8 to 12 in 2020 in partnership with Google. Its adoption throughout educational facilities was restricted due to the fact of the Covid-19 outbreak in the very same 12 months.

The analyze

Our report is the initially in South Africa to study educators at both of those schools and universities about their views on the require to educate media literacy to combat the spread of disinformation on line. The results are centered on the responses to an online study provided by 281 educators. We also organised concentrate groups and carried out interviews with policymakers, educators, and media experts.

We asked them how successful media literacy programmes are, what is at this time staying taught at schools, and what problems they see in the implementation thereof. We also explored the electronic competencies ranges of instructors and learners, and impediments in the way of broader digital obtain.

Our investigation identified that educators in South Africa agreed with the statement that news literacy is critical to democracy and that expanding the amount of time used educating media literacy would assist cut down the amount of money of disinformation circulating in educational institutions (and online, in typical).

A daily life orientation instructor that we talked to explained training media literacy was “essential” since

we’re working with day-to-day actual circumstances, and the children just can’t determine what’s authentic and what is faux, simply because they really do not know it.

All the stakeholders provided in our analyze, from educators at various levels of their vocation to policymakers and expert media scientists, agreed on the significance of media literacy. But they had distinctive sights on what exactly should be taught.

For illustration, high college educators have been extra inclined to introduce learners to how to use unique media units, uncover reliable data resources and be informed of their on the net conduct. College lecturers concentrated far more on how to accessibility and critically appraise facts gleaned from the media.

On the internet basic safety also highlighted large on the checklist of essential subjects to cover among significant university instructors. Just one motive for this could possibly be that college students generally confront on line harassment and bullying, ‘catfishing’ (men and women using fake on the web profiles) scams and comparable difficulties.

Academics are the initially line of defence when working with those challenges in universities. About 90% of instructors we surveyed reported they experienced seen cases of learners sharing misinformation and rumours as the impression beneath exhibits.

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Inequities in access and bureaucratic procedures

We identified that media literacy schooling in large university is impeded by many components. Of these, inequities in entry to electronic units and on the net sources is the most significant. Entry to the online is possible at most educational institutions. But accessibility at home is not equally widespread. Due to the fact educating media literacy capabilities often requires the use of digital devices and entry to the web, these inequities are an essential hurdle.

Other impediments involve the bureaucratic processes encompassing the implementation of new curricula in South African schools, deficiency of time and components, and the linguistic diversity across the country’s faculties, which would involve the advancement of media literacy elements in distinctive languages.

One particular last impediment is the absence of training of educators on the tools and expertise necessary to be media literate. We identified widespread settlement that not all teachers are well plenty of equipped with media literacy capabilities. Two in five significant faculty instructors imagine they deficiency the correct teaching. //datawrapper.dwcdn.web/a3PUE/1/

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

A way ahead

We make a number of suggestions on how to maximize the volume of media literacy taught in South African educational facilities.

1st, we caution towards a single-dimensions-fits-all techniques. These are bound to are unsuccessful mainly because of variations in accessibility and assets across colleges. Care should also be taken to create supplies in the language most typically utilized by learners. Products ought to also be age-appropriate and with reference to actual lived ordeals of the communities the place they will be employed.

Second, media literacy instructing components should really have a solid focus on mobile telephones as motor vehicles for supply, due to their prevalence throughout the nation.

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

Ultimately, involving educators and truth-examining organisations, which are at the forefront of the struggle versus disinformation, should also be a precedence.


Dani Madrid-Morales, Lecturer in Journalism, University of Sheffield and Herman Wasserman, Professor of Media Research in the Centre for Movie and Media Reports, University of Cape Town

This report is republished from The Dialogue underneath a Artistic Commons license. Go through the first article.


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