by Mariam Dakhundaridze, Head of Media Literacy Development Department, Georgia.
The initial step towards the integration of media literacy into formal education in Georgia occurred in 2011 when the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia integrated it into the National Curriculum. Back then, the school community had limited awareness of Media Literacy. The initiative placed media and digital literacy on the list of prioritized transferable competencies and aimed at developing media literacy skills in general education across all subject groups. According to the National Curriculum, media literacy is a combination of skills required for perceiving, interpreting, utilizing, and creating multimedia texts, and the ability to navigate the media landscape, make informed choices, and critically evaluate acquired information.
The updated National Curriculum created a foundation for the introduction of Media Literacy as an elective subject at Georgian schools. However, this ambitious endeavour did not take place until 2022, when the Communications Commission (ComCom), the National Regulatory Authority, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), initiated the project on media literacy integration into formal education.
The project’s initial phase entailed the needs assessment on media literacy amongst the school society. Surveys were conducted among 1,500 students and 500 teachers to evaluate their awareness level, competencies, behaviors, and readiness to support the objective of the initiative. The assessment revealed that teachers recognized the importance of media literacy and the need to integrate it into the learning environment. They were also willing to enhance their own media literacy skills through training, workshops, and webinars. As for the students, they considered their knowledge of media literacy to be limited and expressed a willingness to participate in educational activities.
Based on these insights and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the Center for Teacher Professional Development (TPDC), an educational standard for media literacy, a guidebook for teachers, and a corresponding training module were developed. These resources enable the teaching of media literacy as an elective subject. Notably, the project’s trainers conducted 4-hour training sessions for 600 high school teachers from all over Georgia, and a significant number of other teachers also expressed interest in participating in future training sessions.
To further support the media literacy integration in school education, as well as to ensure the scale of the teacher’s training and the sustainability of this initiative, an MOU has been signed between the Communications Commission, TPDC, and UNICEF. The Communications Commission will continue to promote media and information literacy in schools through new projects and initiatives in partnership with public institutions, international organizations, and educational platforms.
Prior to the initiative described above, ComCom trained more than 900 school and college teachers as part of the project titled “Disinformation as a Challenge: Developing Critical Thinking in Schools”. The project was funded and implemented with the support of the EU Delegation to Georgia. The training sessions were conducted using an innovative and interactive educational module designed specifically for this project. These seminars were held throughout Georgia, including areas with dense ethnic minority populations. Its primary objective was to increase awareness regarding the detrimental effects of disinformation, cultivate media literacy and critical thinking skills, and enhance teachers’ knowledge of countering disinformation and propaganda. Furthermore, the sessions provided teachers with comprehensive insights into European values and the process of Georgia’s integration in the European Union.
About Communications Commission
The amendments made to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting in 2017 mandated the Communications Commission (National Regulatory Authority) with the responsibility to promote Media Literacy in the country. The following year international expert Martina Chapman was invited to create the media literacy development strategy along with its action plan for the Communications Commission. Since 2018, the Media Literacy Development Department in the Communications Commission, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science and its subordinate agency – the Teachers Professional Development Centre, has been promoting Media Literacy and raising awareness amongst the students, teachers, and parents through various projects and activities with the aim to protect and empower them in making informed decisions in their digital lives.
To improve digital skills and media literacy in society, the Communications Commission regularly conducts research on the best European practices and based on the analysis identifies the projects that are most relevant to the local context for further implementation. Apart from this, the Communications Commission also conducts periodic media literacy and digital needs assessments intending to develop new projects that help people make responsible use of new media and address the digital needs of the 21st century.
Through various projects, the Commission is developing and providing educational products, e.g. training and seminars, guidebooks and educational notes, and competitions that help encourage critical and logical thinking, therefore increasing the number of media literate citizens in Georgia. In the training sessions, beneficiaries of different target groups receive information on the following topics: a) What is media literacy; b) The types of fake information (disinformation, misinformation, and mal-information) and how to spot them; c) What is the negative impact of disinformation and how propaganda works; d) What are the different types of media and how they work; e) How is the social media financed and how the social media algorithm works; f) How to use broadband-enabled digital services; g) What are cybersecurity and cyberbullying and how to navigate safely on the internet.
Up to now, ComCom has trained around 8000 school students, 1000 university students, and 2300 teachers. Some of our projects include:
- Media Key: An online platform that promotes the development of critical thinking among adolescents through the analysis of films.
- Truth or Fiction: A competition aimed at developing critical thinking, analysis, and fact-checking skills among adolescents.
- Media Economics: A project recognized throughout Europe, involving the study of the principles of digital media financing and media economics for high school students.
- Hello Ruby: A Finnish series of books about technology and computing that provides tools for kids, educators, and parents to understand programming in a fun and creative way.
- Happy Onlife: An online app for adults that aims to teach children through play about the safe and responsible use of digital media, critical evaluation, and analysis of online content.
To raise awareness of media literacy amongst children, teachers, and parents, the Communications Commission, with the support of the Council of Europe, has developed an online platform that serves as a hub for all organizations – Civil Society, NGOs, and public agencies working on the promotion of media literacy in Georgia. It offers open access to the latest educational resources and informative notes on media literacy in Georgia, while other applications are also available on the platform that help children, parents, and teachers learn safe and responsible use of digital media and develop critical thinking and analysis of online content.
The Communications Commission, as the state agency responsible for the media literacy development in Georgia, joined the UN General Assembly resolution of 2021 on Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week, co-sponsored by Georgia. The objective of the MIL week is to promote media literacy globally as well as review and celebrate the progress achieved. Hence, ComCom, for the 3rd time, is organizing for the third time the Media and Information Literacy Week in Georgia in collaboration with relevant state agencies, international organizations, representatives of non-governmental and civil society organizations, and academia. More information is available at https://www.comcom.ge/uploads/other/11/11972.pdf
Mariam Dakhundaridze, Head of Media Literacy Development Department, Georgia.