Is education a priority for media? Have cultural and education issues been discussed as major topics by today’s mass media?
This is one of the key points addressed at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, last June. DW-GMF is an international conference attended by some 2,000 people — journalists, media experts, consultants, non-profit organizations, etc. — from all over the world. Topics in the forum include preserving cultural diversity, political culture and intercultural dialogue, education for sustainability, new approaches to learning, and media and education.
The conference, held at the World Conference Center in Bonn, which was used as the parliament house back when Bonn was the capital before the fall of the Berlin Wall, was opened with remarks by German Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Westerwelle.
At the conference, participants had to choose between parallel workshops such as “Can You Teach Peace Education?”, “The Rights to Education and Self Determination,” “School Is Out, Facebook Is In,” “Gender and Journalism,” and many others.
The “Can You Teach Peace Education?” session tackled the network of civil society in peace education and how to get people interested in peace issues. In Kyrgyzstan, for instance, there’s an initiative to embrace multi-ethnic groups, such as Uzbek, Tajik, etc. Invited to attend the forum, members of the aforementioned ethnic groups gathered for multicultural discussions and activities. The organizer said such opportunities are rare and discussions are lacking.
In another example, a media organization in Jerusalem talked about the importance of collaborating with schools and their students. The Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy program in Jerusalem promotes anti-violence messages and encourages alternatives to violence among youth and adults. MEND emphasizes the growing importance of the media as a space where the local community could discuss and share their stories.
Ivana Gajovic, an activist from Nansen Dialogue Center Montenegro, Western Balkan, said integrating media and education was a lifelong learning process. In the Balkan area, she said, to make the two things go together, a common regional need and support from other regional organizations are needed.
The “School Is Out, Facebook Is In” session reflected on the emergence of social media, particularly Facebook, as an influence in the life of the youth and a catalyst for change in recent occurrences like the the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement. The discussion dealt with how the Facebook generation relies on social networks for information, while at the same time formal education has been looking less and less attractive these days. Although the speakers in this session agreed that formal education is still the best way for the youth worldwide to receive knowledge and information, the enormous usage of Facebook would amount to something more in the near future.
Former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie also took part in this year’s forum. In his remarks during a plenary session entitled “Globalization — Friend or Foe of Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue?,” Habibie argued that “good education systems and an independent media sector are key to meeting the challenges of a globalized world.”
The growing exchange of information in the media has been used as a channel to expand our knowledge and understanding of other cultures all over the world. Thus, working collaborations between media, education institutes, cultural bodies and sustainable development organizations are urgently needed.
For further information on the conference, please visit www.dw.de.
Olin Monteiro is a writer and feminist in Jakarta