McDougall, Julian and Livingstone, Sonia
Media and information literacy policies in the UK.
London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Media and Communications, London, UK.
This is a position paper on the capacity for media and information education in the UK in 2014 to facilitate media, digital and information literacy as defined by the European Commission (EC) and on the relationship between UK media/information education, regulation and law.
Because the UK has a long tradition of media education within the formal curriculum
(schools and colleges), the premise of this report is that the most tangible evidence of
media literacy education is to be found in the teaching of Media Studies at GCSE and
A-level and in higher education. Therefore the most substantive section of the report
is analysis of the extent to which achievement in Media Studies can be mapped
against the EC objectives for media literacy.
For this purpose, media education in the mainstream curriculum is measured for its
capacity to develop media literacy against a pragmatic working model derived from
publications from the EC, COST/ANR, UNESCO and the UK regulator, Ofcom.
Information education is currently a distinct category from media education in the
UK, with a mandate for entitlement (in the case of e-safety) but without formal
qualifications or assessment.
The report demonstrates that the composite model of media literacy is too broad in
scope and ambition for mainstream education to ‘deliver’. The model derived for this
analysis, from EC, COST and Ofcom documents and reports, covers public sphere
engagement and empowerment outcomes, a broad range of stakeholders, an equally
broad range of media/information content/contexts and a pedagogic intention to
combine cultural, critical and creative learning.
This analysis of formal media education concludes that the performance criteria and
assessment objectives of teaching specifications and awarding body marking
materials, combined with the achievement rates in the A and A* grade boundaries,
indicate that only a small percentage of people studying media in the curriculum can
be said to acquire all the cultural, critical and creative learning. Furthermore,
specifications, combined with teacher choices, cover a relatively narrow range of the
media/information contexts included in the COST definition. Finally, topic choice
means that public sphere engagement and citizen empowerment is difficult to relate to
achievement in Media Studies. Therefore the great success of the UK in providing
media education in the mainstream curriculum (currently threatened by curriculum
reforms for 2016) is balanced by the lack of a coherent match between curriculum
content, assessment modes and media literacy policy objectives.
There is therefore a fundamental mismatch between the objectives of media literacy
as articulated in policy and the capacity of education as the agent for its development
in society. Related to this, media literacy/education is mistakenly burdened with
responsibility for fixing access and engagement barriers that are media
producer/design/regulation issues. The data and analysis in this report supports that
The UK is currently very well placed to provide media literacy through media
education, given the status of Media Studies as an established curriculum subject.
However, to coherently match Media Studies to the policy objectives for media
literacy expressed in EC, COST and Ofcom statements, funding (for teacher training),
and government support and endorsement for Media Studies is essential. Given the
uncertainty over the continuation of Media Studies in the formal curriculum in
secondary and further education, this is unlikely to be supported within the UK.
This report on the state of UK Media Education in 2014 is one of 28 reports mapping
the state of Media Education in each of the EC member states. All reports can be
found at www.translit.fr
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