Wednesday, 07 July 2010 10:45

J-curricula faces tough tests

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.

Asian adaptation
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.

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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:41

Africans called to report Africa

What is Africa and how do we report this thing?” asked Guy Berger, Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, at the WJEC plenary 1 discussion held this morning in Eden Grove Red. Fackson Banda, senior Unesco official, presented a preliminary answer that Berger described as “scraping the surface” when he introduced Unesco’s syllabus for reporting Africa. 

Banda outlined four main areas, identified at a preparatory meeting held in Grahamstown last year, as key launch points for the syllabus. The impetus derived from a need to interrogate the “foundations” of African journalism education and analyse “the complexities of national educational policies and their implications”. It also arose out of an experiment with new teaching and learning methods as well as the need to understand the “impact of African journalism education on journalistic practices and socio-political change.”

An online consultation network was set up, through Unesco, to invite further contributions, but it “was not as successful as we thought it would be,” said Banda. However, “the depth of the responses was sufficient” to show “the need for an indigenised syllabus on reporting Africa.” It also reaffirmed the consultation’s emphasis on “understanding the political history of Africa as a means of locating the practice of journalism in the African context,” and accentuated “peace journalism as a means to respond to the troubled history of conflicts in Africa.”

The crucial objectives of the four-course syllabus on reporting in Africa were to “root students in the African historical context of journalistic production”; to encourage self-reflective, ethical decision making; to develop an understanding of African development contexts and priorities and to “experiment with culturally and linguistically innovative media forms” which promote democratic journalistic practice. Banda argued that the course on developmental journalism would “revive” a topic “much maligned… particularly by Western scholarship.” He described the syllabus’ “state of play” as “a work in progress” and, invited as many journalism educators as possible to contribute.  

Guo Ke, Dean of the Public Opinion Research Centre of Shanghai International Studies University, presented a declaration of the WJEC’s Principles of Journalism Education, which aimed at increasing the field’s value to students. While the principles acknowledged the interdisciplinary nature of journalism education, they asserted its existence, in its own right, “with a distinctive body of knowledge and theory.”

Ke underscored that “journalism educators need to maintain strong links to media industries,” and that they should “critically reflect on industry practices and offer advice to the industry based upon this reflection.” He also emphasized the technological aspects of journalism education and commented that insofar as internet is “changing the landscape of journalism education,” it is now a “global endeavour” where students “should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations.”

Ke described the “most important goal” as being collaboration with colleagues worldwide so that “we can help journalism education become more effective” in reaching its potential.

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