Media and Information Literacy (MIL) teaching strategies to be integrated in monastic and ethnic schools in Myanmar
Media and Information Literacy (MIL) will soon find its way into monastic and ethnic schools in Myanmar.
Monastic and ethnic educational officials and teachers who participated in UNESCO’s course, MIL Training of Trainers for Monastic and Ethnic Educators, which was carried out by the UNESCO Myanmar office (UNESCO Myanmar) in Yangon in July 2022, have subsequently expressed their commitment to integrating MIL strategies in their respective teaching practices.
A total of 25 monastic and 21 ethnic educators attended the MIL Training courses. Monastic education is a ‘parallel’ education system in Myanmar which incorporates Buddhist values in the national curriculum. Ethnic education refers to a school system in large ethnic communities that has been created by civil society organizations (CSOs), or even local educators in the communities themselves.
According to UNESCO Myanmar’s Head of Office Ichiro Miyazawa, monastic and ethnic schools are natural and essential venues for religious and indigenous learning spaces, as well as the intergenerational transmission of societal values and traditions. MIL ensures that these learning spaces promote tolerance, diversity and inclusivity.
Among the core learning areas covered in both courses for monastic and ethnic educators alike were Overview of MIL, MIL Ecosystem and Competencies; MIL Thematic Areas; Understanding Information Disorder; and Freedom of Expression and the Issues of Hate Speech, Bias and Discrimination.
Bespoke learning areas for monastic educators include Alignment of MIL with Core Beliefs and Practices of Buddhism; Addressing Information Disorder and the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism; and Integrating MIL in Monastic Education Policies, Programmes and Teaching-Learning Strategies.
For ethnic educators, distinct lessons comprise Cultural and Ethnic Sensitivity in Intracultural and Intercultural Dialogue; and Integrating MIL In Ethnic Education Policies, Programmes and Teaching-Learning Strategies.
Among the major outputs of UNESCO’s MIL Training courses is the recent enrichment of Guidelines in Developing Religious and Culture-Sensitive Teaching-Learning Materials. These guidelines, currently in development, provide concrete suggestions pertaining to the production of multimedia materials incorporating ethnic and religious subjects, the use of cultural and religious artifacts, and the conducting of ethnic and religious ceremonies and events.
To sustain preparations for the integration of MIL in monastic and ethnic schools, participants were instructed on how to use the Myanmar Teachers Platform. This digital resource serves as an internet-based, mobile, and offline platform for educators, learners, and other parties interested in accessing quality learning resources in a safe and secure environment. At present there are three existing MIL courses in the Platform: MIL Beginners Course, MIL Intermediate Course, and MIL with Focus on Digital Literacy.
According to UNESCO Myanmar National Officer Nu Nu Lwin, a post-training meeting with the participants will be conducted in September 2022 to check on progress achieved and issues encountered by teachers in introducing MIL in their classrooms.
UNESCO Myanmar also conducted an online, post-training evaluation among the participants. According to UNESCO Myanmar Media Development Specialist Ramon R. Tuazon, the results were very positive, which ‘inspires and energizes the UNESCO Myanmar Office to conduct more MIL-related initiatives in the country, including reaching out to youth organizations at the community level’.
Participants who shared their experiences of the courses have expressed a wide variety of positive responses, among them, ‘the session which explained the linkage between MIL and the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism was very useful’; ‘It is clear that the [the use of the] term fake news is wrong’; [I have a] clearer understanding that memory institutions [are part of MIL]’; ‘[The proper] use of technology can reduce hate speech’; and ‘[I gained] knowledge of [the importance of] fact checking’.
Amid the many challenges facing Myanmar today, promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogues within the MIL framework provides another step toward achieving tolerance, inclusiveness, and pluralism in a culturally-diverse society.
Reported by Ramon R. Tuazon, UNESCO Myanmar Consultant and Media Development Specialist, Yangon