Published: Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 08:29 AM Doha Time
Hobbs... highlights the role of the media
THE concept of literacy has undergone changes all over the world including in the Middle East region, feels Renee Hobbs, a professor at the Philadelphia-based Temple University School of Communications and Theatre.
“Being literate doesn’t any longer mean one’s ability to just read and write, but also in a great way his capabilities to understand and react, if necessary, to what others say,” said Hobbs.
The professor was speaking yesterday at a session on “Media literacy” at the Unesco conference on “Literary challenges in the Arab region: building partnerships and promoting innovative approaches”.
The academic, who is also the author of the book Reading the Media High School English, said only those initiatives for spreading literacy among the illiterates backed by media have been successful in reaching their targets. Terming media literacy as a bold experiment as well as an innovation, Hobbs said the volunteers involved in such campaigns have a responsibility to expose their target audiences to all forms of media.
“This is to ensure that those sections covered by such campaigns should be aware of what is happening around them because of such initiatives,” she said.
She said the extensive involvement of the media in literacy campaigns has come in for praise from many quarters, and the media has a responsibility to spell out the right priorities of every section, covered by such programmes.
“The approaches used in a developed country should not have anything in common with the approaches used in a developing nation,” she said.
Speaking about the role of teachers involved in such campaigns, Hobbs said they should incorporate elements of film and journalism along with their own teaching methods to make it easier, appealing and entertaining for the participants.
Hobbs said she had actively associated with campaigners to integrate media literacy into classroom, print, video and online curriculum materials.
On the role of non-government organisations in literacy campaigns in a system where all powers are centralised, Hobbs said under such circumstances, the NGOs should focus on empowering the parents before passing on the gains to the children. “If the parents remain indifferent and inattentive, a potential child learner is unlikely to gain anything much from such campaigns,” she said.
She lauded the efforts of some television channels in the Middle East in bringing innovations in their functioning, saying they had proved that anything was possible if there was a will to perform.
“The channels have recognised the real voice of the powerless and some of them are attempting to bring in a great deal of transformation in the society,” she said.
Hobbs felt that no campaign should be called successful unless it reached the man on the street. “Benefits should reach the man on the street than those calling for changes in a system,” said Hobbs.