As the new school year begins in Cambodia, media topics will be part of the curriculum for the first time. DW Akademie cooperates with Cambodia's Education Ministry to teach students about traditional and social media.
A growing number of Cambodian youth are primarily using mobile apps for communication and information
Cambodia has the youngest population in Southeast Asia - and a majority of these young people are online. Mobile connections via smartphones are the most popular option and Facebook is the platform of choice. But despite the extremely fast development of communications technology, there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to understanding its implications or the effects of leaving an online trail of data.
DW Akademie has therefore placed Media & Information Literacy (MIL) at the core of its strategy for Cambodia. It aims to help the country’s young population learn how to use all media forms - print, radio and television, as well as the internet and other new digital communication technologies - to find relevant information and to join the discussion.
These 12th grade students in Khsach Kandal district are learning about media as part of their ICT curriculum
A new topic for the new school year
Together with Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) and the local NGO Open Institute, DW Akademie has developed MIL modules for a textbook on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for twelfth graders. A total of 94,500 students study ICT across Cambodia. All of them will be using the new textbook beginning this school year, which starts this month.
"Since media messages and new communication technologies are a constant part of the daily lives of Cambodian youth, it is important for them to become aware of the challenges and opportunities involved," says Sok Tha, Director of the Department of Information Technology at the MoEYS.
Young Cambodians need to become conscious of how the media shape popular culture and opinion and how they influence personal choices. They need to know how to navigate the internet and how to protect themselves in the cyber world, he added. MoEYS has recognized the growing importance of internet technology and web-based learning. That’s why it is strengthening ICT in the country’s schools. Cambodian students can now develop their ICT and MIL skills, which will allow them to be at par with their peers in other more developed countries.
The latest statistics by the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia show that nearly half of Cambodia’s population (15.9 million people) has internet access through mobile connections. There are currently some 3.4 million Facebook users - up from 1.1 million just two years ago.
Rapid development in mobile communication
The figures for Cambodia are stunning. However, comparable developments are visible in many other countries - though maybe not as staggering. Throughout the world, communication technology is developing, digital connections are improving and devices like smartphones are becoming more powerful, affordable and easier to use by the day. All this opens up vast possibilities for people in developing societies to communicate, to connect to the global conversation and to make their voices heard.
"But in order to obtain access to this global wealth of information and participate actively in the conversation, people need knowledge and skills," said Ute Schaeffer, Head of Media Development at DW Akademie. People need to know how and where to find reliable information and how to communicate safely and freely, she added. "They need to be media-literate."
MIL is a focus in many of DW Akademie’s projects around the globe. In Cambodia, but also in Burundi, Moldova, Namibia, Rwanda, Tunisia, Uganda and the Palestinian Territories, DW Akademie's MIL projects increase awareness for how media work and how individuals can make their voices heard in the public discussion.