Media literacy education in SA can help combat fake news

On the internet platforms are replete with examples of wrong information – from WhatsApp messages punting some miraculous heal for Covid-19, to social media posts claiming a politician mentioned anything they didn’t.

It is more and more typical in South Africa. Far more than 75% of South Africans say they consistently come across political information they imagine is untrue. 8 out of 10 South Africans imagine that disinformation (or “fake news”) is a problem or a serious challenge in the country.

Scientists and plan makers have been functioning on approaches to counter disinformation for many years. Some policymakers have proposed new rules or pressuring engineering providers to do much more. These actions often raise the question of how to harmony absolutely free speech and regulation.

One more alternative is to boost the concentrations of media literacy between citizens. Media literacy refers to the capacity to browse media texts critically, being familiar with the relationship between media and audiences, and figuring out how media production procedures operate. In diverse areas of the globe, research has revealed that producing persons extra media literate can help decrease the distribute of disinformation.

We not long ago worked with Africa Verify, the major reality-examining organisation in Africa, to map out the status of media literacy teaching in 5 South African provinces.

In a new report, we describe which media literacy expertise are and are not taught in significant schools and universities, and what is halting universities and educators from educating them.

The analysis is part of a greater task to acquire means for media literacy in the region.

We uncovered that South Africa lacks a detailed countrywide media literacy programme. Usually it will come down to individual lecturers and schools to make learners far more media literate.

Some abilities are taught in diverse topics, these as life orientation, technological know-how, language, or historical past. This usually means media literacy content material is fragmented, diffused, and minimal. Learners are taught how to use the media, how to remain risk-free on the web and how to deliver media material, but a lot fewer focus falls on how to simple fact-check out and confirm the media.

Only just one of the provinces we surveyed, the Western Cape, tried to implement a module on on the web safety for grades 8 to 12 in 2020 in partnership with Google. Its adoption throughout universities was minimal for the reason that of the Covid-19 outbreak in the same calendar year.

The analyze

Our report is the initial in South Africa to survey educators at equally faculties and universities about their sights on the will need to instruct media literacy to combat the unfold of disinformation on-line. The results are centered on the responses to an online study furnished by 281 educators. We also organised emphasis groups and performed interviews with policymakers, educators, and media gurus.

We asked them how helpful media literacy programmes are, what is presently becoming taught at faculties, and what difficulties they see in the implementation thereof. We also explored the digital skills degrees of academics and learners, and impediments in the way of broader electronic entry.

Our study uncovered that educators in South Africa agreed with the statement that information literacy is important to democracy and that growing the sum of time invested instructing media literacy would support lower the volume of disinformation circulating in educational facilities (and on the internet, in common).

A existence orientation trainer that we talked to explained training media literacy was “essential” for the reason that

we’re working with day to day serious scenarios, and the children can’t determine what is serious and what is bogus, because they really do not know it.

All the stakeholders bundled in our analyze, from educators at distinct ranges of their occupation to policymakers and skilled media researchers, agreed on the significance of media literacy. But they had unique sights on what specifically should really be taught.

For illustration, large faculty educators ended up much more inclined to introduce learners to how to use diverse media equipment, come across reliable info resources and be knowledgeable of their online conduct. College lecturers focused more on how to access and critically assess facts gleaned from the media.

On the internet protection also featured significant on the checklist of vital subjects to deal with among the large faculty teachers. 1 explanation for this might be that learners generally experience online harassment and bullying, ‘catfishing’ (persons using bogus on the internet profiles) scams and very similar difficulties.

Lecturers are the very first line of defence when dealing with all those difficulties in educational facilities. Over 90% of academics we surveyed stated they experienced found cases of learners sharing misinformation and rumours as the picture under demonstrates.

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Inequities in accessibility and bureaucratic procedures

We discovered that media literacy teaching in high university is impeded by a number of aspects. Of these, inequities in entry to digital devices and on the internet assets is the most sizeable. Entry to the web is doable at most universities. But entry at property is not equally prevalent. Simply because instructing media literacy expertise often entails the use of digital gadgets and access to the online, these inequities are an critical hurdle.

Other impediments include the bureaucratic processes bordering the implementation of new curricula in South African universities, deficiency of time and elements, and the linguistic diversity across the country’s educational facilities, which would involve the improvement of media literacy materials in distinct languages.

A person closing impediment is the absence of teaching of educators on the applications and skills required to be media literate. We uncovered common arrangement that not all academics are nicely adequate outfitted with media literacy techniques. Two in 5 superior school instructors think they lack the good teaching. //datawrapper.dwcdn.internet/a3PUE/1/

Most of the difficulties we discovered appeared to manifest across the five provinces surveyed in the report.

A way forward

We make various suggestions on how to maximize the sum of media literacy taught in South African colleges.

Initial, we caution from one-measurement-fits-all methods. These are sure to are unsuccessful since of differences in entry and sources across faculties. Care must also be taken to establish materials in the language most typically utilised by learners. Supplies need to also be age-suitable and with reference to actual lived experiences of the communities where they will be employed.

Second, media literacy educating resources should have a solid concentration on mobile phones as motor vehicles for shipping, owing to their prevalence throughout the state.

Third, specified the bureaucratic impediments to acquiring and rolling out media literacy curricula countrywide, departments of education and learning in every province should really be engaged in media literacy curriculum planning.

Lastly, involving educators and point-checking organisations, which are at the forefront of the combat in opposition to disinformation, must also be a precedence.


Dani Madrid-Morales, Lecturer in Journalism, College of Sheffield and Herman Wasserman, Professor of Media Studies in the Centre for Movie and Media Studies, University of Cape City

This report is republished from The Discussion under a Artistic Commons license. Study the unique article.


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