Moldova Media Literacy Forum, 2023: Developments, Perspectives and New Dimensions of Media Education Promotion

The recent developments taking place in the media literacy segment in Moldova, but also in the countries of the region, the importance of developing media education in the context of growing challenges related to exposure to an increasing volume of information through access to new digital technologies, the rooting of media education in the education system over the last seven years and the prospects for its development by integrating media education concepts into core disciplines are just some of the topics discussed at the second edition of the Media Literacy Forum, organized by the Independent Journalism Center on October 26.

The event brought together in Chisinau representatives of the Ministry of Education and Research (MoER), the Ministry of Culture (MoC), the Broadcasting Council (BC), the community of donors, local and foreign experts, who analyzed the most pressing issues related to the promotion of media culture in school and society in several sessions, attended by around 70 teachers of media education from all over the country.

Valentina Olaru, state secretary at Ministry of Education and Research, noted that the ministry has a clear vision on integrating media education content within core disciplines. “Given that every five years curricula are reviewed, this is one of the dimensions on which we could integrate media education content. Also, a proposal would be to work with electronic resources (instead of printed textbooks), which can be easily modified, adapted, developed and distributed, allowing us to be in step with time,” Valentina Olaru explained.

In his turn, Andrei Chistol, state secretary at the Ministry of Culture, talked about ways to promote media education, identified in the ministry. “Through the tools we have (libraries, theaters, cinemas) we want to come up with as much media education content as possible to promote it widely in society. In Moldova we have a network of over 1,300 libraries, through which we can expand this project and promote messages of public interest. Libraries are a valuable resource, and through the reading promotion programs that we support, we can also integrate the media education element. We are open to discuss this topic with all partners, so that the idea of media education is not only a trend, but a necessity integrated in our activities, aware and promoted in society,” Andrei Chistol said.

Angela Vacaru, media researcher, added that it was long sought that “civil society should no longer be the only locomotive of media education, but also state institutions, which, by including this initiative/activity in state policies, should have the role of coordinator.” “There are countries that have developed either a national strategy in the field of media education or a plan for the development and implementation of this strategy. The formula we stopped at is to make an inter-ministerial plan (MoER, MoC, BC), and the institutions are to know their role and their tasks,” the researcher said. In her opinion, media education must go hand in hand with digital education. “We can have young people who know very well how to surf the web, but are media illiterate, and vice versa, we can train a lot, but if those people do not have digital skills, they can easily become victims of online manipulation,” Angela Vacaru concluded.

The fight against disinformation and manipulation is among the priorities of the Broadcasting Council. Present at the event, Aneta Gonța, Vice-President of the Broadcasting Council, informed that the institution she represents is willing to get involved in the development of critical thinking by promoting media education. “In many countries, the broadcasting regulator also has a media education component. I hope that we will have the support of our colleagues and vote this year, for the first time, on an action plan that would include the media education component. In addition, we have already created a continuing training center for our employees, and in the near future we will have some trainings on media and information education, supported by experts from Ireland and the UK, recognized as some of the most advanced in the field,” the vice-president of the BC said.

Romania’s experience in media education was shared by Nicoleta Fotiade, an expert at the MediaWise Society, and Monica Halaszi, expert and teacher. They highlighted the need to teach media education, as well as the ways it is taught in Romanian schools.

“Media is a social reality, and media education is not just how to distinguish between news and falsehoods. It is also about our online presence, about how our personal data can be used by social networks, about influencers, about approaching values and about how the value system changes over time. It is about the construction of our identity and the role we have as media users – autonomous users, able to decide for themselves,” said Nicoleta Fotiade, who familiarized the participants with the eMerg media skills training program that she promotes in Romania.

Monica Halaszi, expert and teacher of Romanian language and literature at the Liviu Rebreanu National College in Bistrita, Romania, told the participants her experience of “infusing” media elements into the curriculum of the discipline she teaches. “Since I first interacted with media education, I discovered a media world in the textbook of Romanian language and literature. It has been about six years since I started teaching this discipline differently,” the teacher said. She added that there are about 120 pilot schools teaching media education in Romania. They have teachers of Romanian language and literature, history, social sciences, English and French who have become aware of the need for media literacy and the cultivation of critical thinking in students and received training in media education, being encouraged by the Independent Journalism Center of Romania.

Ukraine’s experience in the field of media education was presented at the Forum by Svetlana Babenko, expert and teacher from Ukraine. She spoke about the initiative of the Ministry of Education of Ukraine to create a platform for teachers, called Osvity [Education], which would help them teach media education, work with different media content, verify information, analyze it, identify whether it is true or false. “The information that appears in Ukraine is not all truthful. Therefore, we must teach teachers how to filter it. There are some very experienced teachers and some who are less skilled, get lost in this information and need to be trained,” Svetlana Babenko explained.

Loretta Handrabura, expert and co-author of media education textbooks, expressed several concerns about the fact that information technologies, in addition to the multiple opportunities they bring, also create many challenges related, first of all, to national and personal security. “In our interaction with the virtual environment there is an increase in aggression, violence, hate speech and instigating speech based on all criteria (gender, ethnicity, politics). Another concern is the fact that people relate to anti-models, to influencers, often with anti-values, whom our children copy without thinking about whether what they do is right or not. Instead of living their own lives, they try to live the lives of those they are watching virtually. Also, I am concerned that young people and children are exposed to a lot, without discernment, of what the world should see, how much the world should see and what should remain personal information,” the expert said.

“The optional course of media education was the lifeline at a time when disinformation, manipulation and other negative aspects flourished in the information space, at a time of hybrid wars and awareness that in the 21st century it is necessary to have a professional attitude from a didactic perspective. We are in the first year of integrating media education into the discipline of Romanian language and literature, and we can’t wait to see where we will end up. We are consumers of media content, but also creators of content, and this is a great professional and personal civic responsibility that we must have,” said Natalia Grîu, expert and co-author of media education textbooks.

The participants of the second edition of the Media Literacy Forum spoke about the teaching experience and relevance of this discipline.

Rodica Boico, deputy director, teacher at Onisifor Ghibu Lyceum, Orhei

“This year I am teaching the optional course of media education to third grade students. Watching how eagerly the children wait to come to this lesson – to read a newspaper, to analyze a magazine to which the entire class subscribed, to come with a device connected to the internet and proudly access QR-codes, to watch different educational videos – motivates me to look for new approaches, to find out good practices and experiences of teaching this optional subject. Today’s children are born in a digital age and are increasingly challenging us, teachers, to communications that are not necessarily related to the content from textbooks, but to the internet and media elements. I am glad for the opportunity to participate in this Forum. I go home loaded with lots of positive emotions.”

Svetlana Borș, teacher of media education, Boscana village in Criuleni district

“I am a huge fan of this discipline. I came several times in front of parents with information about media sources and I was very surprised when at yet another activity the parents themselves came up with proposals for topics to discuss. It was the best reward for me.”

Aliona Roșu, teacher at Gheorghe Râșcanu Gymnasium, Riscani

“Back in 2018, we created the gymnasium newspaper, in which we included a column on media education. The newspaper is intended for students, parents and teachers. Obviously, parents are always informed about everything we think is important to know.”

Galina Sârbu, teacher of Russian language and media education at the gymnasium in Brinzenii Vechi village of Telenesti district

“I am teaching media education for the fourth year now, and every time it is a new challenge. At the Forum I understood what has been achieved so far in this area, where we got to and what development prospects we have. I have learned many new things that seem simple at first glance, but in fact are quite complex. I will follow the recommendations of professor Monica Halaszi from Romania to use texts/articles/materials from the media at the lessons of Romanian language and literature. With students I got used to using audio, video, podcasts for lessons. We will certainly continue.”

The Moldova Media Literacy Forum is part of the project “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M), funded by USAID, the British Embassy in Moldova and implemented by Internews in Moldova, which aims to promote the development of independent and professional media and to create a media sector more resistant to political and economic pressures. Also, the event is held with the support of the project “Strengthening of media and information literacy (MIL) in the Republic of Moldova: Piloting the integrative approach in formal education”, implemented in partnership with Deutsche Welle Akademie and with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ).


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