In recent years, there’s been a realisation that reading, writing and arithmetic activities are no longer sufficient for students to thrive in the work place. There are several reasons for this, but much can be attributed to the proliferation of the media in society. With the introduction of internet to students when they are young, many are very internet-savvy. While this is a good thing, the fact that they are bombarded by messages and advertisements from all sides is not conducive to their development as individuals. This is because being young students are often vulnerable to impressionable messages.
Hence, as educationists, we have a responsibility to inculcate certain skill sets to students to enable them to sift through the massive amount of messages bombarding them every day. These skillss are often considered as “new literacy” To achieve this, we will need to take a closer look at these skills:
- Media Literacy: Students should be taught about analytical skills when they access media materials that include newspapers, television programmes and even internet websites. More importantly, they should be taught to explore the various aspects of any particular issues, even in areas that are not mentioned by any articles or reports. This will enable the students to understand matters and issues holistically.
- Visual literacy / communication: Visual literacy / communication can be considered to be the subset of media literacy, since it deals with the understanding of images that are in turn commonly used by the media. This is a very important field of study that has become prominent only in recent years. It is important to note that since our minds take better to images than words, we are often taking in subtle messages through images everywhere. Thus, it is crucial that we gain the ability to analyse and examine these subtle (or even hidden) messages before accepting them.
- Life Skills: The abovementioned skills are prominent because of the increase in the availability of information and content in recent years. Life skills, on the other hand, have been around for years. However, certain values are eroded in recent years and it is crucial that educationists bring them back. For example, thriftiness is a value that is slowing losing its importance in today’s society where consumerism is more the norm than an exception.
The abovementioned new literacy should be welcome and implemented in educational institutions. Some schools are already encouraging teachers to integrate such skills into the educational curriculum. However, this is not very effective since each teacher might go about guiding students differently, there being no defined rules. Creating a comprehensive syllabus to guide students on the abovementioned skills is essential to enable them to understand these skills and bringing success into their lives.