The UNESCO MIL Curriculum and Competency Framework combines two distinct areas – media literacy and information literacy – under one umbrella term: media and information literacy. It moves from what the terminologies mean individually, as shown in Figure 1,1 to a unified notion that embodies elements of both media literacy and information literacy and conveys the aims and objectives of MIL.
On the one hand, information literacy emphasizes the importance of access to information and the evaluation and ethical use of such information. On the other hand, media literacy emphasizes the ability to understand media functions, evaluate how those functions are performed and to rationally engage with media for self-expression. The MIL Curriculum and Competency Framework for Teachers incorporates both ideas. Various definitions or conceptualizations of media literacy and information literacy education point to competencies that emphasize the development of enquiry-based skills and the ability to engage meaningfully with media and information channels in whatever form and technologies they are using.
There are two main schools of thought emerging about the relationship between these converging fields – media literacy and information literacy. For some, information literacy is considered as the broader field of study, with media literacy subsumed into it, while for others, information literacy is merely a part of media literacy, which is seen as the broader field. However, an international expert group convened by UNESCO has pointed out the distinctions, as well as linkages, between media and other information providers. Consider the following terminologies being used by various actors around the world:
- Media literacy
- Information literacy
- Freedom of expression and information literacy
- Library literacy
- News literacy
- Computer literacy
- Internet literacy
- Digital literacy
- Cinema literacy
- Games literacy
- Television literacy, advertising literacy
There are obvious relationships among these notions (see Figure 2). Not all of these linkages are explained in this framework document. However, some are the subject of related activities in the introductory module (Module 1) of the MIL Curriculum that UNESCO has produced. The salient point here is that, as teachers become more knowledgeable about the MIL field, they will come across these terms and should at least be conversant with them. Many of these terminologies continue to be the subject of lively debate and are applied differently, depending on the professional context or cultural practice of the communities of those who use them. Globally, many organizations use the term media education (ME), which is sometimes accepted as covering both media literacy and information literacy. UNESCO’s use of the term MIL seeks to harmonize the different notions in the light of converging delivery platforms.
This UNESCO model MIL Curriculum and Competency framework for teachers is intended to provide teacher education systems in developed and developing countries with a framework to construct a programme for turning out teachers who are media and information literate. UNESCO also envisions that educators will review the framework and take up the challenge of participating in the collective process of shaping and enriching the curriculum as a living document. For this reason, the curriculum focuses only on required core competencies and skills which can be seemlessly integrated into existing teacher education without putting too much of a strain on (already overloaded) teacher trainees.