Media education and curricula reform in Finland

  • Awareness
  • 03/01/2018
  • Finnish Safer Internet Centre

It's critically important to consider and reflect on the goals and the ways in which children and young people can be supported for the world of tomorrow. Here, the Finnish National Audiovisual Institute, part of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC), considers how this can be achieved through curricula approaches to media education.

One of the aims of schools is to support pupils' growth as human beings and to help them avoid social exclusion by developing and supporting the knowledge and competences that are needed for participation in working life and society at large. This is why it is critically important to reflectively consider the goals and the ways in which we can support children and young people for the world of tomorrow? This means, for example, taking into account the growing impact of technology in society and the possibilities and effects of mediatisation.

Media education in the Finnish curricula

Media education has long been part of the Finnish curriculum; only the concepts and perspectives have changed over the years. From this perspective, according to Ruokamo, Kotilainen, Kupiainen and Maasilta (2016),the terminological and contextual history of curricula covers pedagogical units (mass media education in curriculum in 1970 and communication education in 1994), content areas of competences (media competences and communication in 2004) and educational objectives (multiliteracy and ICT competence in 2014).

In the latest curricula reform (commissioned in 2016), two essential concepts were introduced in the Finnish educational system: Multiliteracy and ICT competence. These are important concepts since they are part of the Finnish educational system and curricular framework from the early childhood education and pre-primary education to basic education and general upper secondary education. In the core curriculum for basic education, the concepts are defined as transversal competences meaning that they are entities consisting of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and will. Transversal competences are important educational goals since they should be promoted in all grades and subjects.

According to the core curriculum for basic education, Multiliteracy is the competence to interpret, produce and make a value judgement across a variety of different texts. In this context, text refers to knowledge presented by systems of verbal, visual, auditive, numeric and kinaesthetic symbols and their combinations. For example, text may be interpreted and produced in a written, spoken, printed, audiovisual or digital form. Multiliteracy means abilities to obtain, combine, modify, produce, present and evaluate information in different modes, in different contexts and situations, and by using various tools. This definition clearly overlaps with media literacy definitions (see, for example, Aufderheide 1993; Potter 2010; Martens 2013) illustrating the connections with these concepts (Palsa & Ruokamo 2015).

In addition to multiliteracy, competence in information and communication technology (ICT) is the second objective with a clear relationship to the BIK-related issues. In the curricula, the competence is understood as an important civic skill both in itself and as part of multiliteracy. From the point of view of equality, it is important to note that the education ensures that all pupils have possibilities for developing their ICT competence.

Pupils develop their ICT competence in four main areas:

  1. They are guided in understanding the principle of using ICT and its operating principles and key concepts, and supported to develop their practical ICT competence in producing their own work.
  2. The pupils are guided in using ICT responsibly, safely and ergonomically.
  3. The pupils are guided in using information and communication technology in information management and in exploratory and creative work.
  4. The pupils gather experience of and practice using ICT in interaction and networking.

In all of the areas of ICT competence, the active role of the pupils themselves is highlighted and they are offered opportunities for creativity and for finding working approaches and learning paths that are suitable for them.

From plans to practice!

Based on the definitions of these competences and their role as transversal competences in the Finnish education system, media education offers valuable and effective support for educators in their vital but challenging work in supporting the growth of children and young people for the world of tomorrow. The role of the curriculum in the educational system supports equality in the development of competencies and in fostering the wellbeing of children and young people. However, it is important to consider how the curriculum is applied and put in to the practice.

At the Finnish Safer Internet Centre, we are working to support educators by raising awareness and providing support for the implementation of the curriculum. This is done, for example, by trainings and lectures, participating in relevant professional events, blog posts and by designing the educational materials in relation to the contents presented in the curricula and explicating the educational aims.

Find out more about the work of the Finnish Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services

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