Teachers, bedrock of truth-based society

Be smart: Despite youths being called digital natives, some still do not apply critical thinking online. – Filepic

Disinformation and a lack of media literacy is a threat to societies around the world.

And educators, said United States Ambassador to Malaysia Brian D. McFeeters, play an important role in fostering a truth-based society.Urging teachers to equip themselves with media literacy skills and best practices, he said educators understand best how the information environment impacts youths in their communities.

“Your guidance and interventions when it comes to media literacy have the potential to reduce radicalisation, limit hate speech, and equip youths to not only protect themselves, but to also act as champions of media literacy in their communities,” said McFeeters.He was speaking at the opening of the Asean Teachers Boot Camp held virtually from Feb 8 to 10.

Organised by the Media Information and Literacy (MIL) for Asean Network, the online training on media and information literacy benefited more than 100 educators from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Funded by the US Department of State’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF), the boot camp aimed at expanding the participants’ knowledge and competencies to integrate MIL across the curriculum and develop the critical thinking skills of students so that they could actively engage with different segments of society, a press release from MIL for Asean Network read.

Mohamed Djelid, who is the director of the Regional Bureau for Sciences in Asia and the Pacific in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Unesco representative to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste, noted that while the proliferation of digital technologies has been empowering and enriching for many, it has also given way to massive disinformation, hate speech and other forms of harmful content that are very damaging to youths’ well-being and civic participation.

Highlighting the role of educators in guiding the youths in developing critical thinking and media literacy skills, he said, “Youths are the most active users online and yet they are often unaware of their rights and responsibilities in cyberspace. This is why Unesco supports the integration of MIL in national policies and strategies, as well as school curricula.”

When teachers integrate MIL in their classrooms, they provide students the critical skills to understand the media surrounding them and develop them to become active consumers of information who can determine credible sources, acknowledge biases in media, and be responsible creators of media, said organising co-chairperson Lai Cheng Wong. “Education is the best way to create media and information-literate societies,” she added.

Sharing her experience, a secondary school teacher from Penang said prior to joining the boot camp, “big words” like deepfake, deep nostalgia, misinformation, disinformation, debunking, fact-checking, and digital detectives in a post-truth era were alien to her.

“This training has expanded my MIL knowledge and competencies.

“Hopefully, I can integrate MIL across curricular and develop the critical thinking capacity of my students,” she said.

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