Friday, February 08, 2008

BPN1002 Media literacy minor in the Netherlands

This week a minor in media literacy has started at the University of Applied Science Stenden at the education department in Meppel. The driving force behind this minor is Hans Sleurink (see photograph), a scriptwriter and television maker, author of articles as well as books and publisher of the Dutch language newsletter Media Update. Hans is not unknown in the area of media literacy. Four years ago he produced, together with philosopher Arjen van den Berg, an essay on values and norms in the media world for the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy, proposing a media diploma in the line with a swimming diploma or (another Dutch item) bicycle diploma. In 2000 he published, again with Arjen van den Berg, a book under the title Media-educatie: een kennisinventarisatie (Media education: a knowledge inventory). In the book he took the position that the Netherlands were about to make a change-over to a knowledge society. In this process the speed and quality of transfer of information and knowledge would become more important. Because of that the importance of media literacy would also increase in importance. Government should let its passive attitude go and would have to choose for a stimulating role in the development of media-education. In the Netherlands the item is still discussed, but has not received a real stimulus, despite the government’s promise to come up with policy measures in the first half of 2008.

Internationally media education or media literacy is also being discussed. In December 2007, the European Commission published a communication Media Literacy. It was accompanied by a study Current trends and approaches to media literacy in Europe, performed in the second half of 2007 by the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain). I took time out to discuss this document with Hans.

What is the first impression of the study?
The study mentions that all 27 EU member states have been treated. And as a Dutchman you immediately start searching through the document for Netherlands and Dutch, and if you find nothing you might still try Holland. But the Netherlands does not show in the study, except for two footnotes. I am not sure whether this also happened to other member states. But in the study a number of front runners are named like Finland.

What did you think of the study?
The study is interesting for its content. However the historical approach is a limitation. The study does not go further than the sixties of last century. This can be justified, but no justification is offered. This is unsatisfactory.
The analysis produced is okay; it takes a broad approach. Many elements which are important to media literacy are addressed in the study. Given these elements an inventory of useful insights has been composed, which shows the forces around media literacy. Useful as well is the list of gaps, barriers and deficiencies (page 70), which hamper the development of a common media literacy policy. The first item on that list is, in my opinion, also the most important deficiency: the lack of a generally accepted theoretical and conceptual framework. Unanimity is still far off in as far as objectives, concepts, methods, sources, research and evaluation of research results is concerned.

What are the objectives of media literacy?
The researchers offer the position that two interests dominate media literacy: economy and active citizenship. These items are linked with other areas such as education and the home environment. I think that this is an acceptable approach. However it is remarkable that in the communication the European Commission only chooses for media literacy for:
- commercial communication;
- media literacy for audiovisual productions;
- media literacy for online use.
It is strange that in the beginning of the communication citizenship is mentioned as an important objective of media literacy, but it does not show in the recommendations. In this way the economic interests are very much stressed. This does not do justice to the study, which is richer than the communication leads to believe. Are policy tactics underlying this limitation? Are matters like citizenship and education so much a matter of member states when it comes to media literacy, that the EC will not touch it, afraid of being accused of neglecting the subsidiarity principle. Or is it simply a plain choice for the Market?

What is you general evaluation of the study?
Despite the fact that the study seems incomplete in country information, it offers a lot of information about policy plans and projects in a number of EU member states. For example, information like sources on policy and on practice of media literacy in Finland, Ireland, and Austria, is very useful for setting up projects nationally and in the European Union.

Blog Posting Number: 1002

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