Media Education, a Useful Tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

WSIS 2017 • In view of the United Nations 2030 Agenda objectives, Media education is a powerful way of contributing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Information and media literacy skills is a good way to improve the autonomy of individuals of any society and allow them to participate more fully in their country’s political, economical, social and cultural life. In this crucial area the needs are immense.

Contribution to the workshop The Digital Transformation of Learning, Education and Training and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), organised by The Geneva Learning Foundation as part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2017.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations is the new framework for international collaboration to face the most important challenges of our planet over the next fifteen years. This Agenda is a plan of action for all countries both in the North and in the South. This action guide consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (ODD) including quality education, one of the essential means aimed at improving people’s living situations and to bring positive changes to communities, and society at large. Goal 4 is aimed to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The issue at stake is the acquisition of basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic) for all people – especially for those who are marginalised and vulnerable – and providing access to technical and vocational skills as well as the opportunity to continue learning throughout their lives.

To that end, the entire educational system (pre-school, primary, secondary, tertiary education, technical and vocational training) should be improved and extended. The 2030 Agenda (paragraph 15) recognizes the potential that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet offer to “accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies”.

It is crucial yet insufficient to solely provide physical connections to information sources; we must also educate entire populations on how to properly and responsibly use the vast and diverse content and digital services that will be newly available to them. It is essential “to promote information and media literacy as indispensable individual skills to people in the increasing information flow” (WSIS position paper).

The spread of digital communication technologies and personal mobile equipment (mobile, smartphone, tablet) necessitates the promotion of media literacy world-wide. Therefore, we should support efforts to ensure the mastery of the basic cultural tools: reading, writing and arithmetic. Media literacy can be defined as “all informational, technical, social and psychosocial competences of a user when he consumes, produces, explores and organizes media” (Brussels Declaration on Lifelong Media Education).

The ability to choose among a wide range of available means and of accessing information – both traditional print-based media and modern information technology-based media – form part of educational processes as well as how to search for information, evaluate it and communicate it. That is why the knowledge and the skills developed in the training in media and information literacy (MIL) is critically important.

Action plans should include training partners and stakeholders in order to insure that the education of individuals is ongoing and life-long. This education should take place in formal, informal and non formal settings.

The content and appropriate methods for a broad-based media education has been developed by many organizations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has developed a comprehensive formal normative framework along with strategies and resources to foster media and information literate societies.

The benefits of media education in pursuing the targets contained in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are manifold. The change in the perceptions and behaviour related to eating habits (Goal 2), health issues (Goal 3) and gender equality (Goal 4) can particularly benefit from media education programs that target their needs in realistic situations at school, at work, and during recreational activities (learning by doing). Media literacy instruction is a very valuable means for the empowerment of people and to promote their participation in social, cultural, economic and political life and become engaged in their community.

The ability to think and act for oneself with the development of critical thinking is at the heart of the trend towards a knowledge society. It is therefore important to fully understand the limits of the informative contents of the message and the need to appreciate the significance of the social, political and economic context within which messages are designed and broadcasted. It would be wise to attempt answering some fundamental questions aimed at stimulating thought and discussion. Who created and posted this information? What techniques are used to attract my attention? Does it convey stereotypes? For what purpose?

The methods used to influence people are countless. The techniques taught by the masters of rhetoric are still relevant in a society where most of communication is mediated. Nevertheless, the means to influence public opinion have become more diversified.

From a private chat with friends to posting a text on Twitter, from a scientific paper to videos downloaded from YouTube, whatever the medium, it is through information that we form our representations, our opinions, our disposition of mind with regard to other persons or things, and that we make decisions and direct our actions. Education should enable everyone to know the mercantile and ideological logic of all types of content so as not to be deceived.

However, the implementation of media and information education plans, where they exist, are difficult to execute, even in societies that enjoy a high level of development and education (in Switzerland, for example).

The needs are immense. Almost everything remains to be done in the field. Cooperation among partners on all continents must be stepped up and developed so that the conditions for access to knowledge actually benefit the objectives of sustainable development.

Given its essential importance, media and information education should have been included in the priorities of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the potential of ICTs for sustainable development, but does not mention the need for specific skills required to use digital technologies in an appropriate manner.

> Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic et Social Affairs, United Nations.
> Final Statement – Information and Knowledge For All: an expanded vision and a renewed commitment, Towards Knowledge Societies for Peace and Sustainable Development, First WSIS+10 Review Event, UNESCO, 2013.
> Declaration on Lifelong Media Education, High Council for Media Education, Brussels, 2011.
> Communication and Information, Media and Information Literacy, UNESCO.
> Jagtar Singh, Alton Grizzle, Sin Joan Yee, and Sherri Hope Culver (Eds.). Media and Information Literacy for the Sustainable Development Goals. (MILID Yearbook 2015). Goteborg: NORDICOM, 2015.
Les sites et documents ont été consultés le 9 juin 2017.

Modèle pour citer cet article:
Domenjoz J.-C., «Media Education, a Useful Tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals», Éducation aux médias et à l’information [en ligne], 9 juin 2017, consulté le date.

Cet article concerne le domaine Médias, images et technologies de l’information et de la communication (MITIC) – Éducation aux médias et à l’information (EMI) – Media and Information Literacy (MIL) | Éducation numérique |

Auteur/autrice : Jean-Claude Domenjoz

Expert de communication visuelle et d’éducation aux médias