TACKLING DISINFORMATION: TEACHERS ON FRONTLINES OF MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION FOR YOUTH IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
USAID supports ASEAN roll-out of capacity building program to counter disinformation and increase media information literacy for educators
According to 2022 figures, Southeast Asia has 460 million internet users, 100 million which are newly online in the past three years. Despite numerous benefits, the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation fueled by social media and emerging artificial intelligence technologies, pose a growing threat to secure and stable societies within the ASEAN region and beyond. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to engage ASEAN educators who want to ensure their students are equipped with media literacy and critical thinking skills to safely and successfully navigate this brave new world.
EQUIPPING EDUCATORS TO TACKLE DISINFORMATION AND PROMOTE MEDIA LITERACY IN CLASSROOMS ACROSS ASEAN
Educators, along with parents and caregivers find themselves on the frontlines of a dynamic digital ecosystem without the tools to help young people learn to more safely navigate their online lives and avoid manipulation by those with ill intentions. Recognizing the need of academia to keep pace in order to adequately prepare youth for 21st century challenges, ASEAN education officials with support from the USAID are training educators through a region-wide Training-of-Trainers Program to Counter Disinformation and Promote Media Literacy: Educator’s Toolkit.
Through the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project, USAID worked in partnership with the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) to first produce an Educator’s Toolkit based on consultations with key stakeholders in education, youth, information, and media sectors across ASEAN Member States. The Toolkit provides essential curriculum material for educators to teach students theoretical and practical knowledge about media literacy, countering disinformation and critical thinking skills. Available online, this open resource is designed to be customized to different classroom contexts by users in the education sector.
Through a series of online and in-person trainings beginning in mid-2022, over 50 educators and curriculum officers from across ASEAN are now better equipped to broaden awareness about and integrate counter-disinformation and media information literacy into their institution’s curriculum. Over 70 percent of participants increased subject-matter knowledge following the training, reporting gains in confidence and skills to train and teach their students about countering disinformation and media literacy. An even greater proportion indicated they were ready to tailor the materials and implement them in their respective institutions.
Already, several educators who completed the mid-2022 training have reached hundreds of students and fellow educators through classes and online webinars using resources they co-created in local languages drawing upon the Toolkit. For example, participants from Indonesia conducted an online webinar for educators about the Toolkit they customized in Bahasa Indonesian targeting primary school level kids. According to one team member, Pak Riza, Curriculum and Student Affairs Analyst for Local Education Authorities and former elementary school teacher in South Kalimantan, “We received very positive response from the teachers to disseminate the localized modules. The teachers from all levels of basic education—primary to high school—showed great interest and were curious how they can apply the module in their class.”
To achieve a multiplier effect, in early 2023, ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT teamed up with the Association of Southeast Asian Teacher Education Network (ASTEN) to target institutions training current and future teachers. Hosted by Singapore’s National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University, 17 representatives from eight teacher education institutions tailored the Toolkit for Educators for their respective institutions, exchanged their own experiences and efforts, and offered online tools that could be incorporated into the lessons to solicit inputs and feedback from students who are currently attending the Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) as pre-service educators.
Dr. Sholehah Ismail, a senior lecturer at a TEI in Malacca, drew upon the ToT materials in her class, reflecting, “The activity is highly interesting, which made the students excited. At the same time, we teachers have a chance to get to know our students’ current situation. This program is helping us to equip our students and have ‘life-skills’ experience to survive the digital age.”
As a comprehensive strategic partner, the United States through USAID, is committed to continuing collaboration with ASEAN and other regional partners on promoting and strengthening education about media information literacy for youth in the region as ASEAN’s future leaders.
Established in 2014, AsTEN is an entity affiliated with ASEAN (Annex 2 of the ASEAN Charter). AsTEN’s core mandates include advancing teacher education through regional cooperation and enriching professional human resources for teacher education. This network of TEIs from AMS also serves as a vehicle for collaboration in both academic and research endeavors within and across member institutions that will ultimately benefit the ASEAN nations and peoples.