Media Education in Canada: An Overview
Canada is considered a world leader in media education. Being the "mouse beside the elephant," it's natural that Canadians would want to take a more analytical and reflective approach to the pervasive media culture imported from the United States. But despite this, implementing media education in Canadian schools has been a fairly recent phenomenon.
Media education in Canadian schools can be traced back to secondary "screen education" courses that were offered in the late 1960s. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, these courses waned under educational reform during the 1970s. However, due to the perseverance of small groups of media educators, media education steadily gained momentum in the 1980s and 1990s.
The 1990s saw dramatic curriculum reform in the Canadian education sector—activity that's had great significance for media education.
Although Canada's 10 provinces and 3 territories each have their own education systems, collaboration on the development of curriculum frameworks in core subject areas— through the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education (WNCP) and the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation (APEF)—has resulted in media education being granted official status across the country.
It is now widely accepted in education circles that in order to be literate, children and young people must be able to read, understand and bring critical thinking skills to information in many different forms. This thinking is broadly reflected in the new English Language Arts curriculum frameworks that have been developed by the WNCP and APEF, and in the new provincial curricula being developed in Ontario and Quebec. The cross-curricular potential of media education has also been recognized, through the inclusion of media-related outcomes and objectives in Social Studies, Health, Citizenship, and Careers and Personal Planning curricula.
For more details about media education and curricular outcomes for a particular province, see Provincial Overviews and Media Education Outcomes in the sidebar.
In 1993, Ministers of Education from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the Yukon and Northwest Territories joined forces as the Western Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Basic Education (WCP) to develop common curriculum frameworks for Kindergarten to Grade 12. (Nunavut became a member of the WCP in 2000.) The WCP has since been renamed the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for collaboratio in education (WNCP).
The WNCP English Language Arts framework, which contains a strong media education component, was completed in 1997. Member provinces are now developing their own curriculum or implementation documents to provide teachers with teaching strategies and ideas.
In this framework, an understanding of media texts is treated as an important language skill. The framework acknowledges the importance of the construction and analysis of media texts, especially as they relate to the development of viewing and representing skills.
Media-related outcomes are included throughout the WNCP English Language Arts framework, most notably in General Outcome 2: "Students will listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent to comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, print, and other media texts."
According to this outcome:
- Constructing meaning of oral, print and other media texts is fundamental to living in a democracy. In a technological society, students are required to comprehend and sort ideas and information from an increasing volume and variety of sources.
- By exploring oral, print and other media texts, students experience a variety of situations, people and cultures, and learn about themselves.
- Students respond to texts by reflecting, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and creating.
While this framework has been emerging, a similar framework has been developed for the Atlantic provinces. Since September 1995, Ministers of Education from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have been working on a joint framework for Entry to Grade 12 education, under the auspices of the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation (APEF).The four provincial members of APEF use the document "Foundation for English Language Arts for the Atlantic Provinces" as the blueprint for English Language Arts education in their provinces. Although each province could interpret and/or expand the framework, the English Language Arts learning outcomes for the four provinces are in fact almost identical. Each builds on the concept that literacy means going beyond competency in the written word to the ability to use and understand visual and technological means of communication.
In Atlantic Canada, Media Literacy, Critical Literacy and Visual Literacy are essential components of English Language Arts.
- Visual Literacy is the ability to understand and interpret the representation and symbolism of a static or moving visual image—how the meanings of the images are organized and constructed to make meaning—and to understand their impact on viewers.
- Media Literacy is the ability to understand how mass media, such as TV, film, radio and magazines, work, produce meanings, and are organized and used wisely.
- Critical Literacy is the ability to understand how all speakers, writers, and producers of visual texts are situated in particular contexts with significant personal, social and cultural aspects.
In the Atlantic English Language Arts curriculum, each of these components is clearly defined and teachers are provided with ideas for their implementation. The framework also recognizes the importance of production—of multimedia and visual texts—as a way of attaining literacy.
In the Canadian educational landscape, there are two stand-alone provinces: Ontario and Quebec.
Ontario was the first Canadian province to introduce media education into the curriculum in 1987, thanks to the work of a dedicated group of media educators from the Association for Media Literacy. For a long time, Ontario was the only province officially addressing media literacy, although in the early 1990s, media literacy associations were formed in British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
In 1998, Ontario introduced a new curriculum for Grades 1-12. In Grades 1-8, media components are included throughout the Language curriculum, especially within the Oral and Visual Communication strands. At the secondary level, in Grades 9-12, the media studies component comprises one quarter of the Language curriculum, and students may earn a Grade 11 media studies credit.
Quebec is currently developing a new curriculum for Grades 1-11, to be fully implemented in schools by 2006. The elementary curriculum includes a Program of Programs that includes eight broad areas of learning: World View, Health and Well-Being, Personal and Career Planning, Social Relationships, Environmental Awareness, Consumer Rights and Responsibilities, Media Literacy, and Citizenship and Community Life. Each of these areas includes media-related outcomes, with most residing within Media Literacy, and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities.
Identifying media education as an essential curricular component is an important first step in developing this subject area, but much work needs to be done to bring media education into the classroom.
Media Education Challenges
Media education has made tremendous progress in the past decade, but significant challenges still lie ahead. Funding for professional development and for resources to support classroom activity in Canada is scarce. During MNet's 2000 research into the status of media education, officials from provincial ministries of education repeatedly stated that although media was strongly integrated into the English Language Arts program as another kind of "text," there was little professional development activity attached to this new discipline, and no money for new resources.
There are other concerns. Teacher apathy, overwhelming curriculum changes, high demands for accountability and reporting, a lack of resources, and pressures to integrate new technology into classroom learning, have all contributed to a general unwillingness on the part of teachers to "go the extra mile" for additional professional development.
The core problem comes down to funding. Many pre- and in-service teachers need specific training, and supporting resources, before they will undertake media education but, for the most part, this training and support is not available.
The Future of Media Education
Though media education has a long way to go in Canada, the picture is not bleak. A number of indicators point to growth in the practice of media education across the country.
As noted above, for the first time ever, media literacy has officially been endorsed as a key component of the core curriculum in all Canadian provinces. Ministry endorsement gives the immediate "green light" to teachers who are interested in, and feel capable of teaching media studies, and it provides "ammunition" for grassroots advocates. It will, however, take years for this major curriculum change to filter down to the average classroom.
For the first time in a number of years, new teachers are beginning to enter the system in sizable numbers. These young teachers are "naturals" for bringing media education into the classroom. They are closer to kids' popular culture, less intimidated by technology and less entrenched in their approach to teaching and choice of subject matter. More importantly, they are being asked by their provincial departments of education to consider media productions—such as television, film, music, the Internet and advertising in all forms—as "text." Before this potential can be realized, however, Canada's 35 faculties of education must take on media education in a serious way. This is beginning to happen, in response to the new curricula, but there is a real challenge ahead in getting media education into faculty programs. The courses of study are already overcharged and the majority of "media" courses still focus on using media as an educational tool, or using media to produce learning resources. Courses that focus on bringing critical thinking skills to popular culture, or on classroom strategies for media education, are beginning to grow in number but they are still relatively scarce.
A factor that could have an impact on media education is the shift, in the last decade, to student-centred learning; that is, an approach to education in which the teacher's role is less that of a subject "expert," and more one of a skilled learning "facilitator." Canadian media education experts have always stressed that a good media educator facilitates the process of inquiry—and the acquisition of critical thinking skills. The content of study is of secondary importance.
Another shift in education has been the extension of critical thinking skills downward from the secondary level into the elementary curriculum. Today's curricula demand that children in the primary and elementary grades not only acquire basic reading, writing, math and language skills, but that they relate, combine and analyze information, and draw conclusions. One media education expert describes media education as "the perfect curriculum" for the elementary grades, through which children, who love their media culture, are motivated to write, analyze and organize information and to express themselves orally—all the while preparing themselves to be wise consumers of information and appreciative audiences of popular entertainment.
The fact that media education resources are continuing to be produced, used and bought by Canadians is a good sign, indicating grassroots interest in the subject.
Finally, the Internet is already giving impetus to media education. Several media literacy organizations are or soon will be online, allowing educators to communicate with each other, create online media education communities and access practical media education resources quickly. The Internet may be important to the future of media education.
Technological advancements—home videos, computer games, a huge spectrum of television channels and now the Internet—have made access to all media easier and easier for children and young people. The skills for distinguishing reality from fantasy, and for determining what the real messages are, who are behind the messages, and why—are becoming ever more important in an environment in which information, education, advertising and entertainment are becoming seamlessly interwoven.
Traditional media education topics—stereotyping, bias, gender and minority portrayal; objectivity and point of view; fashion, advertising and self-image; questions of ownership and content; the globalization of media; the relationship between audience and content; are as pertinent as ever in the new industrial education/entertainment complex. However, crucial new topics are arising: the effects of interactivity; the protection of personal privacy; anonymity and identity; cyberhate— its tactics and motives; the impact of new technologies on personal communication; the potential of electronic democracy; freedom of expression versus censorship. And in an environment with millions of publishers and few gatekeepers, the skills to decode online marketing and to determine the differences between fact and opinion have become essential.
This thinking is reflected in new curricula across the country. It will take years to filter down to mainstream classroom activity, but it is clear that there is an imperative to provide children and young people with critical thinking skills to make good sense of the media in their lives.
Fonte: Media - Awareness