As the world celebrates Global Media and Information Literacy Week from October 24-31, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Saturday urged public and private schools to boost their initiatives against misinformation, especially those that concern coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

gatchalian - Schools urged to address ‘infodemic’ to protect students from fake news
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Since the country’s more than 25 million students are more exposed to various media because of distance learning, Gatchalian said that they are prone to encountering inaccurate information that could lead to confusion and panic.

He pointed out, however, that since media and information literacy is part of the K to 12 curriculum, schools are crucial in beating what the World Health Organization (WHO) called the “infodemic” crisis or the rise of misinformation and disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), some of the most common themes of the infodemic include the origins and spread of the disease, false and misleading statistics, and dangerous information about diagnosis and treatment.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate basic education, culture and arts committee, proposed that the Department of Education (DepEd) also tap the expertise of seasoned journalists who were already involved in training the so-called teacher-broadcasters.

He said seeking the input of these experts could be a boost to programs aimed at enhancing media and information literacy.

At the local levels, Gatchalian said partners from local radio and television stations could also be tapped to help spread awareness.

Media literacy is also seen playing a key role in providing age-appropriate health education, he pointed out.

According to the “Key Messages and Actions for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Schools” by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), media literacy can empower students to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.

Part of the proposed student activities related to this is the creation of public service announcements for social media, radio, and television.

“The spread of fake news or any kind of misinformation in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is like the spread of a malignant disease that must be cured. The role of education in spreading accurate information will guide our countrymen in facing the current health crisis,” Gatchalian said.

“In containing COVID-19, there is an urgent need to teach our students to be active and circumspect that would help in their education,” he added.

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