School managers in Mongolia discuss possibilities for integrating media and information literacy components into school curricula

On 26 March 2021, 40 urban and rural secondary school principals and managers participated in an online consultation workshop to learn about the Media and Information Literacy Curriculum developed by the Press Institute of Mongolia with the support of UNESCO and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and discuss how to implement the Curriculum in secondary schools.

The consultative workshop was part of a three-year project implemented by the Press Institute and the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of SIDA and UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office. The project intends to equip policymakers and media professionals with advanced knowledge of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) policies and best practices, and improved capacities to respectively adapt and apply MIL curricula and policy in Mongolia.

Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director of UNESCO Beijing Cluster Office and UNESCO representative to China, DPRK, Japan, Mongolia, and ROK, opened the meeting by stressing the special importance of Media and Information Literacy in times of COVID-19. “More than ever before, we need critical knowledge that allows us to identify the nature of information and protect ourselves from disinformation. MIL helps to build citizens’ resilience to ‘disinfodemic’ as well as support their creative use and production of verified information”, said Professor Khan.

Mrs. Uyanga, Secretary General of the UNESCO Mongolian National Committee expressed concerns about closed schools and children spending most of their time on the Internet. “These are times we urgently need to pay attention to promoting MIL at all levels”, said Mrs. Uyanga.

Despite the increasing awareness among major stakeholders in Mongolia concerning the importance of MIL, general education curricula still only focuses on elements of digital literacy, with few cross-curricular components of MIL, which are not aiming at a systematic development of MIL relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes either. A baseline survey conducted by the Press Institute among schoolchildren in Mongolia in 2019 revealed that MIL relevant learning opportunities offered through school education lag significantly behind children’s real needs and their information and communication experiences.

“The kids are ahead of us in terms of information technology, and the teachers are only worrying about their students having access to all kinds of unfiltered information. Before this consultative workshop I thought that information on social media can only be verified by IT professionals. I feel grateful and at the same time encouraged that the teachers can learn and teach their students about different types of media and information”, said Ts.Oyunjargal, Director of School No.1 of Sukhbaatar province.

During the first two years of the project implementation, the project advanced knowledge and understanding of MIL, and brought consensus on the urgency of policy level efforts to strengthen MIL across society among multiple stakeholder groups. A tailored MIL curriculum has been developed and successfully tested among teachers both in formal, non-formal and informal education sector in Mongolia. A workshop for media organizations, journalists, and media practitioners has also been organized during the project implementation period, in order to attract their attention and enhance their awareness about their role and possibilities for promoting MIL. Based on project activities, a national MIL network was formed to facilitate exchanges among government, media, and civil society stakeholders, and to synergize MIL relevant activities at a national level.

The third year of the project envisages further training for secondary school teachers to facilitate integration of MIL curricula into teaching practices, small grant programs for media professionals to encourage production and distribution of MIL contents through mainstream media, as well as strategy development workshops/meetings with the MIL National Network members to define vision, strategic goals, roles and responsibilities, and action plans for policy advocacy.

For more information about UNESCO’s work on media and information literacy and relevant resource, please visit: https://en.unesco.org/themes/media-and-information-literacy.

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