I belong to the technology riddled Generation Y, or, if you prefer it, the millennials. I feel fortunate to have grown alongside the ‘internet era’, to be a part of the generation that takes comfort in the ease that emerging technologies and mass media provide. While I am not extremely affected by them, I do possess a certain fluency in them.
At a time when there is a great flood of information that we receive from the internet, and social media dominating our lives, the effects of popular culture and the mass media cannot be denied. In this context, is there a greater need for the masses to be well-versed in media education?
To put it in layman’s terms, as Dr Kh Khabi, the head of Rajiv Gandhi University’s (RGU) mass communication department, states, “Media education is an everyday process by which people become aware of the ways in which various media influence their thinking, affect their value system, and change society.” I write this piece against this backdrop, in order to look at a few scenarios where media education is crucial.
How often have you heard someone remark in woeful tones that the current generation of the tribal society is forgetting their culture? The fear of loss of culture is a very prevalent matter today. As Dr Khabi states, “Media itself is responsible for the loss of culture because it is the engine of globalization.”
Perhaps the phenomenon of globalization, fuelled by the already changing views on the cultural landscape, is responsible for the wave of concern emanating from the society. Cultural change is upon us like a tsunami approaching the shore, ready to engulf the entire population and erase all the memories that we hold dear. And when the waves retreat, all we can find is the debris of what was once a rich and vibrant culture.
Change itself is not a problem, but the death of an entire culture is. As Ashish, a professor of the department points out: “Media research, theories and communication subjects help you understand the cultural context of such changes. Academicians of the local community, learned in the field of fact-finding and research, can actually guide us through their knowledge.” In this context, media education can actually be of great help, he opined.
The month of February was a perilous time for the state. The state saw conflict and the situation turned violent. Perhaps it is even more important in times of crises, or when the society is at a crossroads, that we need conscientious and correct media education.
The local media are an integral and recognized part of the society. One should not forget that journalism and other forms of media can escalate conflicts, but their influence also demonstrates their potential for positive purposes.
Dr Khabi states, “It is especially important in a volatile and conflict-prone region like Northeast India that the need for good conflict journalism and media education arises. Better still, we call it ‘peace journalism’, which is very much necessary for the prosperity of the state.”
The steps towards ensuring the wellbeing of the state are incomplete without mentioning the scopes in the tourism sector. The USP of our state lies in its tourism potential. Recent months have seen reports in the media on how the government is making sincere efforts in promoting the tourism sector. As such, it is pertinent to mention the role the youths of the near future can play in this process. One underlying component is the use of media technologies as a tool to arm the youths in bringing about positive changes in the society.
The most important role falls on the educators and the education system if there is to be a serious turnaround in the future, and media education can facilitate this growth. All over the world, there is a growing need that media education be included in the school curricula. Australia is the first country where media education has been introduced into the curriculum as a mandatory subject from kindergarten through to the 12th grade. In Asia, the Philippines is the first country to integrate media education into the formal school curriculum.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the importance of media in the development of children and in soliciting the youths’ views on matters that affect them.
Citing the importance thus placed on media education, Dr Khabi expressed a similar opinion. In an attempt to offer the basics of media literacy, a media campaign by the students of RGU, under Dr Khabi’s mentorship, was also organized at various schools of the state.
Only schools can turn information into knowledge. Teaching to read, interpret, analyze and evaluate messages broadcast by the media is a task that, for many students, only the educational system can handle.
When we speak about media education in the state, it is pertinent to mention the RGU’s mass communication department. It is the sole institute in the state for higher media studies. The department has successful media persons among its alumni, but is the curriculum at par with the changing times?
If you take a good look around you, you will definitely find a number of people who are immensely blessed with talent but have no space to improve on them, that is, to a level where they can make a proper career out of it.
”The ground reality is that the youths really aren’t aware of the opportunities that taking up a mass communication course can bring,” says Dr Khabi. “One way to get the people interested would be if the government took greater interest in the professional graduates of mass communication. If professional graduates are brought into various departments of the state that need individuals of their skill-set, the departments can have a facelift and the state can develop.” (Lijo Karlo is the winner of The Arunachal Times’ media scholarship in the postgraduate category.)