Critical media literacy should get more attention in media education

Nowadays, a person living in information age is required to have the competences in analyzing and processing data. This qualification can be trained in media education or not?

Buckingham (2003, p.4) defines that ”media education is the process of teaching and learning about media”, while the knowledge and skills learners acquired, which considered as media literacy, is the outcome of media education. The reflection of this concept in case of Vietnam and South Korea indicates the fact that media education, in some ways, is equated with the idea of learning how to use media tools for producing media products, for example, how to use Microsoft PowerPoint to create an effective presentation. Focusing too much on technical skills leads to the misunderstanding of media literacy. The other important elements of media literacy, such as the ability of critically analyzing media messages and questioning what we see, read, watch (Chen, 2007), seem to get not enough attention.

The ”multiperspectival” framework by Kellner (1995, p.336), aims to enhance media literacy in media education, containing four approaches which have cumulative relation to each other’s, see below Figure 1.









The protectionist approach is based on the limitation in the view point of media to guide the audiences’ perception. As I regard, the examples of this method are Media-avain (Finland), Common Sense Media (USA) and Media Smarties (Netherlands). These services provide information on media products for parents and school to educate children. This definitely can contribute to the improvement of analyzing skills for media audiences.

The arts education method is the way to make education more creative, attractive, fun and experiential. The particular models for this can be found, for example, in Tampere Media School or in Youth Activity Centre HAPPI.

The media literacy movement approach widens the conception of printed literacy to contain more diversified types of media and also require cognitive critical thinking skills of learners.  As I have experienced, the series of ordered activities in our master course ”Workshop in media literacies” at the University of Tampere is the good demonstration of this approach.

Finally critical media literacy integrates three above approaches and cultural studies to deepen the analysis of information and challenge learners to critically assessment media messages. Critical questions can be posed, for example: How media text are constructed and might be constructed differently? (Kavoori & Matthews 2004)? How might different people understand this message differently? What values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message? (Chen, 2007).

In conclusion, the contemporary conceptualizations of media literacy should focus more on the ability to evaluate information, because this knowledge is essential and helps to improve the competence of an individual in digital age.

The author Hang Nguyen is a student in the international Master’s Degree Program in Media Education



  • Buckingham, D. (2003). Media Education: Literacy, learning and contemporary culture.  Cambridge, UK: Polity.
  • Chen, G. M. (2007). Media (literacy) education in the United States. China Media Research, 3(3), 87-103.
  • Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture: Cultural studies, identity and politics between the modern and the postmodern. New York: Routledge.
  • Kavoori, A & Matthews, D. (2004) Critical Media Pedagogy: Lessons from the Thinking Television Project, Howard Journal of Communications, 15:2, 99-114.


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