Serbia: Research Shows a Clear Need for Media Literacy Education

The need for education in media literacy in Serbia is a clear result of the research ’Media Literacy in Niš High Schools’, carried out by the Faculty of Philosophy in Niš (the third largest city in Serbia) in cooperation with Media and Reform Center Niš, a SEENPM member.

Conducted during March and April 2016, as one of the most comprehensive studies on media literacy in Serbia, the research encompassed all four-grade high schools in Niš (18 of them). The respondents were students of the final year, their parents and teachers.

General conclusion is that all the three surveyed categories of respondents had sparse education in media literacy. Almost 46% of teachers and 45% of parents never had media literacy programs during their own education, which means that those who are supposed to talk about media literacy to children do not know much about the subject.

More than 90% of respondents are of the opinion that all population categories need media education. A certain number of students think that their teachers need such education more than they do.

Students and their parents are of the opinion that introducing an additional course (on media literacy) already in elementary school would put a burden on students. Only teachers think that introducing media education is absolutely necessary (45.8%).

A curious disparity in responses occurred when the students were asked whether new media technologies have been used in their education and whether teachers have motivated them to use those – 70% of students said that it has been the case very rarely or almost never, while more than 50% of teachers claim that the education has been modernized and they have used new media technologies in teaching.

A majority of respondents think that the influence of media on the life of citizens should be talked about within the courses in civic education and sociology, which brings into question the very understanding of media literacy.

It is worrying that almost 10% of students think that being informed is irrelevant for their lives. Teachers and parents consider themselves well informed. Students devote the greatest attention to watching series and films, while only 25% of them follow the news.

As many as 90% of respondents said that they do not follow the most popular reality shows on national TV channels, which leads us to the question who actually is the audience of these programs watched by millions.

The internet is the most widespread source of information, while radio and daily newspapers are the least used source of information for all the three categories.

The essential purpose of social networks is spreading information globally, parents and teachers think, while the students use social networks almost exclusively for networking. Only 4.6% of students do not use social networks, while almost 25% of parents and teachers do not use them at all. 48% of teachers use Facebook.

An interesting observation is that a large number of respondents state Instagram as a social network they use to get informed, although the purpose of the network is sharing photos, which brings into question the respondents’ understanding of the notion of ‘getting informed’.

As for the role of the state in the control and monitoring of media content on the internet and in curbing the placement of negative information, some 50% of all respondents consider necessary the state control of the internet content. One can thus conclude that a half of respondents consider censorship of media content on the internet justified or they simply do not grasp that the control and monitoring by the state is in fact – censorship.

More than 40% of respondents think that the media have a small influence on shaping their attitudes on current issues, although the same percentage is of the opinion that the media have the power to change course of events.

Majority of respondents think that the full media privatization led to reduced level of professionalism in the media – 60% of parents and teachers are of this opinion, which can be linked to their viewpoint that media owners determine the manner of reporting on current events in the society.

A Note on Media Literacy Education

The process of media literacy education should involve all the three surveyed groups – students, their teachers and parents, each group within its competencies, but in a systemic, organized and planned manner – the state should be involved within the education system, non-governmental organizations through organization of workshops, media by promoting media literacy, and the family as the main and the most important filter when it comes to minors.

This also entails media education of adults, which means that relevant activities should be branched out in multiple directions and this should be done simultaneously so as to raise the media literacy of entire citizenship to a higher level and create a media literate public, capable of taking personal responsibility and partaking in social activities.

Considering the directions of social and media-related development, media literacy should become a part of education system, sooner rather than later.

The survey and data processing was done by the research team of the Media and Reform Center Niš and the Department of Communicology and Journalism, under the leadership of the professor Zoran Aracki, PhD, of the Faculty of Philosophy. 

The research encompassed 3688 respondents, out of which 1687 students of the final year of high school, 1206 parents and 795 teachers.

Download the research in Serbian

Download the research presentation (PPT) in Serbian.