A glaring omission in the proposed basic education curriculum framework which was presented to stakeholders for validation last month is the place of media and information literacy (MIL) for Kenyan students. The omission is strange given that the curriculum developing agency, KICD, works closely with UNESCO, who have dedicated substantial resources and research over the years and recommended that curricula the world over adopt media and information literacy as an inalienable competence for quality existence in the 21st century knowledge societies.
Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is used as a composite concept to refer to a set of competencies that empowers citizens to access, retrieve, understand, evaluate and use, create, as well as share information and media content in all formats, using various tools, in a critical, ethical and effective way, in order to participate and engage in personal, professional and societal activities.
More broadly, media and information literacy is a basis for enhancing access to information and knowledge, expression, and quality education. It describes skills, and attitudes that are needed to value the functions of media and other information providers, including those on the Internet, in societies and to find, evaluate and produce information and media content; in other words, it covers the competencies that are vital for people to be effectively engaged in all aspects of development (UNESCO).
In a situation where the Kenya government is implementing a variety of cross-cutting initiatives that have a direct bearing to the lives of all citizens in the information age, it is envisaged that elaborate MIL initiatives are needed in Kenya to bring the various citizen groups – including children and youth – up to speed with the rapid development of digital technologies through media and information literacy awareness creation and capacity building.
In this regard, implementation of media and information literacy initiatives will help create a media literate population in the country with capacity and skills for access to quality information citizens need to make informed decisions within the new media and information environment. MIL will also equip citizens with skills to participate actively in governance and community development and be critical players to take advantage of the opportunities generated by the information age.
Already, a number of state and non-state actors are undertaking various initiatives which fall squarely within the realms of media and information literacy. Aside from the Digital Literacy Programme spearheaded by Education and ICT ministries and their agencies, other initiatives include the media literacy public talk-shops organised by the Media Council of Kenya and the Film Classification Board’s school visit programmes dubbed “You Are What You Consume” to sensitize students on film and media content safety, and responsible Internet use. There cannot exist a better way to augment these disparate initiatives and rope in the future Kenyan citizen than integrating MIL into the new curriculum.
It’s noteworthy, however that the envisaged core competencies in the new curriculum as recommended by the 2015 report ‘Reforming Education and Training in Kenya’ are in congruence with MIL outcomes, notably communication and collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, citizenship and digital literacy. The curriculum developer may at this point want to adopt and contextualize for Kenyan children the UNESCO model (by far the most comprehensive) by expanding the now popular Digital Literacy Programme to encompass the entire spectrum including computer, Internet, Games, social networks, e.t.c., and other related literacies such as Media Literacy (Advertising, News, Television & Cinema) and Information Literacy. Ways must also be found to incorporate the same in the training of teachers.
This will however be difficult to implement given the current policy and strategy vacuum on media and information literacy implementation. There’s therefore urgent need for concerned authorities to start the process of drafting a National Media and Information Literacy Policy and Strategy for Kenya.
Elaborate national MIL-related policies and strategies will guide the various initiatives and streamline the current and new efforts at all levels. The ongoing national education and curriculum reforms provides a perfect opportunity for this crucial activity, or we’ll miss the bus; and time is nigh for stakeholder consultative forums on the same.
If adopted, Kenya will join the few countries (around 70) that are implementing MIL-related activities in varying degrees and reach across the globe as more and more countries recognise the importance of MIL. The outcome will be an empowered people, communities and nations to able to participate in and contribute to global knowledge societies.
(The writer is a media and information literacy expert)
Dated in Nairobi on 1st February, 2017.
CENTRE FOR MEDIA & INFORMATION LITERACY IN KENYA
P.O. BOX 76957 – 00620