Educators urge UNESCO to further contextualise its model curricula

The UNESCO model curricula for journalism education, launched in 2007, still represent an important resource for journalism educators globally, especially when they are contextualised to align them with local conditions. This was the message of several journalism educators at a recent special UNESCO panel during the 4th European Communication Conference of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) held in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dr Incilay Cangöz, a Turkish associate professor at Anadolu University, noted that the curricula needed to reflect the constantly changing demands of the media industry while focusing on larger political and social issues.

Her Spanish counterpart, Prof. Pilar Carrera of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, challenged the notion of an “interdisciplinary” journalism education, arguing that journalism education needed to be recognised by academia as a “strong, focused and autonomous journalistic field”.

Adding his voice to the debate, Dr Steffen Burkhardt of the University of Hamburg lamented the tendency to relate the UNESCO model curricula only to the “countries with lower human rights and freedom of expression standards”, adding that “universalising journalism education requires ... a global journalism training elite ... that knows how to apply the universal competencies to their particular regional challenges”.

For her part, Dr Kim Sawchuk of Concordia University said that she was “suspicious of the term and notion of the universal”, calling for a pedagogical “negotiation” in journalism. She called on her counterparts to “create journalism programmes that work from the particularities of the locale and are sensitive to that locale”.

The UNESCO panel, held on 27 October 2012, aimed to mount a critical interrogation of the “universal” and the “particular” in relation to journalism curriculum design. It also served as a peer-review of two of UNESCO’s specialised syllabi on media sustainability and data journalism. These, and several others, will be published in July 2013 as a compendium of new syllabi to update the model curricula and will be available for download on the UNESCO website.

Other speakers on the panel included Prof. Kaarle Nordenstreng of the University of Tampere, Prof. Cees Hamelink of the University of Amsterdam, Ms Saltanat Kazhimuratova of the Almaty College of Social Sciences and Prof. Daya K. Thussu of the University of Westminster.