Kindergarten kids never too young to fact-check
MANILA, Philippines — While media and information literacy (MIL) is included as a core subject at the senior high school level in basic education, students as young as kindergarten can be trained to fight rampant disinformation in the digital age.
“When their classmate tells them that classes are suspended, we could teach them to check the other sources first,” said Arniel Ping, a private school teacher and president of the Philippine Association for Media and Information Literacy (Pamil).
“Did they get the information from a school announcement? Sometimes, they can also ask their teachers whether it was true,” he said in an interview, noting that without the need to call it fact-checking, the skill can be instilled in the kids at an early age.
In Finland, the “first line of defense” in the fight against disinformation and misinformation is kindergarten teachers, as the European country took it to the primary schools where young learners are being taught media literacy and critical-thinking skills.
As far as the Philippines is concerned, an education expert said the Department of Education (DepEd) has moved to develop media literacy through its “21st century skills framework.”
“If we look at MIL as a soft skill or general skill that learners need to have as part of the 21st century skills that they need to develop, then definitely, they have to develop that early on,” said professor Marie Therese Bustos, Philippine director of the Assessment, Curriculum and Technology Research Centre, a joint research center between the Assessment Research Centre at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of the Philippines.
Reality vs make-believe
“Information literacy can be developed through literature and class discussions after storytelling. Young learners can be taught to distinguish reality from make-believe, or to even identify if what is being said is true or false,” Bustos told the Inquirer.
Based on DepEd Order No. 21, series of 2019, the 21st century skills cover information, media and technology, learning and innovation, communication, and life and career skills.
“This framework helps both curriculum developers and teachers to intentionally provide opportunities for learners to develop these skills through the different subject areas,” she said, adding that it is through the 21st century skills that students are able to detect disinformation.
While Ping agrees that MIL skills are integrated into the current curriculum, he said it would still boil down to critical thinking, which is being taught in all subjects.
“Having critical thinking skills does not mean they already know how to fact-check,” the educator said, emphasizing teaching MIL skills like fact-checking should be “intentional” or explicitly indicated in the curriculum.
An MIL teacher himself, Ping said that while it was a victory that MIL was included in the curriculum, it still has to undergo improvements.
“For the MIL guide, we see a lot of gaps … it’s heavy on technology and we believe some of the topics are not aligned with the Unesco [standards],” he said, adding that the current curriculum was leaning toward the use of technology which causes misconceptions.
In an article published in the Asian Journal on Perspectives in Education, the qualitative study by Angelito Bautista found that some senior high school teachers who were assigned to teach MIL “have little or no prior idea of MIL as a subject,” as they were only tapped to teach because of their experience in teaching computer and information and communications technology-related subjects or their knowledge in media and communication.
Given these on-ground experiences, Ping said the curriculum guide on MIL must be updated to include hate speech, disinformation, and repression of a free press, as these are topics that must be discussed in class.
“Instead of focusing on technology, it should be about media deconstruction and analysis of messages,” he said.
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