The panel discussion, on driving the future of journalism curricula was described by panel coordinator Kaarle Nordenstren. as a “panorama pointing out hotspots”. To date, 54 journalism schools from 44 countries have expressed interest in adapting the Unesco model journalism curriculum.
Michael Cobden, one of the authors of the Unesco curriculum, said that it aims to promote “de-westernisation” and “fight against developments from our baser instincts,” such as “the insinuation of advertising and marketing” and the “tabloidisation of journalism.” He wouldn’t “tinker” too much with the content, but nevertheless mentioned that “there is a lot of rethinking to be done”.
“The [syllabus is the] best part, as far as I’m concerned. Academics tend to guard their syllabuses jealously.” he said.
Launched three years ago, the updated curriculum reflects an “emphasis on intellectual knowledge and development,” with “a special emphasis on writing and reporting throughout the programme” said Cobden. He noted its generic imperative, pointing out that many journalism schools have been “scrambling to adopt their programmes” to technological changes, but “might be better off reinventing them”.
“I must say, Unesco can be proud of the contribution to journalism education and to the public,” he concluded.
Asia’s contribution was next, as Violet Valdez, from Ateneo de Manila University, presented a “hybrid learning programme” in her curriculum for Asian journalists that has courses given on campus and online. She acknowledged, that Unesco provides a “valuable benchmark” with its project, and that the proposed Asian curriculum reflects the two principles emphasised by Cobden.
Guo Ke, of Shanghai International Studies University, provoked laughter when he joked that China’s 650 programmes are “a huge amount”. He described China as having a “dilemma between fast paced media and the slow catch-up” with traditional media education methods.
“Due to rigid controls in China, reforms can be slow,” he said, and there is a “growing difficulty to maintain the curriculum.” Challenges included, “English journalism education programmes finding it difficult to identify themselves as a real academic discipline.” When asked whether he was happy with the state of journalism education in his region, Ke replied, “That’s a very tough question. We still have problems but there is progress. If you really want an answer I’d say yes, I’m happy, but there’s still a big but.”
Latin America, often overlooked in these discussions, according to Nordenstreng has, like China, had “phenomenal growth in the last 30 years” in journalism education. Sophia
Virginia Moreira, of Rio de Janeiro State University, was nevertheless dissatisfied with journalism education in Brazil. “We mostly have curriculum problems. I think the curricula are very old; we don’t keep pace with the students learning. They are struggling, debating a lot of things that they wouldn’t have in real life,” she said. Cultural variations hamper the only Portuguese speaking country in Latin America, since not being able to read in Spanish “makes a lot of difference” for collaborative efforts.