The New Education Policy 2020, which was drafted by a panel of experts led by former ISRO chief Dr K Kasturirangan, was introduced on 29 July 2020. The policy aims at having an education system that is second to none. But are we missing the elephant in the room: media literacy and tackling misinformation in our new education system?
Media Literacy is an important skill that should be incorporated into schools. It is a skill that allows one to critically analyze the messages that they receive from any media, including print, TV, digital and social media. By asking five basic questions: Who created the message? What is the one factor that attracts me to the message? How differently can people interpret the message? What is added and what is omitted? Why is this message sent? one can apply the media literacy skills in their real-life experience.
This critical thinking process should be incorporated in the schooling of an individual, so that, when they move out of the basic foundation of education, they can critically analyze the messages they receive. This will enable them to empower their life and in turn be a better digital citizen, since we are in an age that is digitally proactive and flooded with information.
This is not only an issue which should be dealt with by school kids and youth. Even adults should be taught these skills. According to a study by Andrew Guess et al in the United States, on average, users over the age of 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains compared to the youngest age group. If the United States, which is having a more robust education system and literacy rate than India, is facing this issue, we can imagine what the plight here would be.
So, the best way to make our citizens media literate is through these two methods: 1. Educating the younger generation; 2. Educating Adults.
Educating the younger generation would be an easier task compared to educating adults. If the government adds media literacy and fact-checking in the school curriculum, a whole bunch of youth become media literate. Fact-checking should be a compulsory skill for students. For adults, it should be implemented in their workspace as short term training at least. Promotions in government jobs should have a minimum requirement of completing media literacy training.
This is the need of the hour because our society is being adversely affected because of our media illiteracy. We tend to share information without much critical thinking and this comes back to us in many other ways like lynchings. Even governments are brought into power purely because of the lack of media literacy and fact-checking skills.
Dr Firoz Mohammed, Director of Media & Communications department, NSHM Knowledge campus, Kolkata when asked about implementing media education and fact-checking skills in schools said: “To have media education at school levels, fact-checking, media literacy or even news literacy, we need to have a strong political will and a strong political will only come through a social movement”. We never know whether a ruling party would agree to implement media education in schools for youth or workspaces for adults, but an undeniable fact is that the more we delay in implementing this, the more we are stalling our overall development.