Media Education Deserves Attention Too

Amid vehement opposition, the Lok Sabha on July 29 passed the National Medical Commission Bill replacing the corruption-plagued Medical Council of India (MCI) with a new body, in what was described by the government as one of the biggest reforms that will end ‘inspector raj’ in the medical education sector. The bill also has a provision for making national standards in medical education uniform by proposing that the final year MBBS exam be treated as an entrance test for PG and a screening test for students who graduate in medicine from foreign countries.

However, Opposition members and organisations representing doctors, including the Indian Medical Association, have objected to provisions like exit exam and replacing elected members with nominated members in the proposed commission. They allege that the legislation is against the spirit of federalism. Nevertheless, the fact remains that MCI had been a den of corruption and radical reforms were the need of the hour.

Unfortunately, governments, opposition and media seem to have turned a blind eye to media education in the country, at a time when media is impacting lives at the grassroots level with the advancement of technology. That education pertaining to the fourth pillar of democracy continues to remain neglected even seven decades after independence is a matter of serious concern.

The contribution of Journalism & Mass Communication towards nation-building and social transformation has been immense. Communication today has become an integral part of governance, from Panchayati Raj institutions at the grassroots to the Prime Minister’s Office. Whether it is science, health, water or education, no government policy can succeed without including the critical component of Development Communication or Information, Education and Communication.

Moreover, at a time when issues such as language, caste, community etc. are being used by vested interests to disintegrate the society, Intercultural Communication, which is an integral part of Journalism & Mass Communication, can play a pivotal role in strengthening national unity and integrity.

Presently, there is no regulation vis-a-vis media education. Consequently, teaching shops have sprung up in every nook and corner, who are exploiting the students attracted to the glamorous side of the profession. Except for a couple of courses approved by UGC, no effort has been made to standardise the media curriculum or to improve the quality of faculty.

The need of the hour is to establish a Media Commission of India, which would ensure that the loopholes are taken care of, students get the best of opportunity in an era of animation, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, visual effects and gaming and minimum standards are ensured in terms of teaching and infrastructure.

The Commission can also conduct an all-India Common Test for Communication (CTC) for Mass Communication programmes, based on reasoning, linguistic skills and General Knowledge, so that the best students get admission in leading media educational institutions, on the lines of NEET, JEE etcBesides, efforts should be made to promote mass communication education by introducing Media Literacy Programmes (MLP) from at least the middle school as the students are getting exposed to media in a manner unprecedented in human history.

Mass Communication should also be an integral part of all programmes at secondary and senior secondary levels, particularly in the stream of Science and Humanities. In fact, it should be offered as an optional subject right from Class IX. This would also ensure that media students have another career option as teachers in schools as well.

One of the key demands of the media fraternity is to include Mass Communication as an optional subject in the Civil Services Examinations conducted by UPSC. It is sheer injustice to deprive media students of a golden opportunity when other mundane subjects have found a place there.

It is also important to recognise Mass Communication as an independent discipline, which would ensure that instead of English, Hindi or other language departments teaching the subject at colleges, even in institutions like Delhi University, there would be Departments of Mass Communication in every college and university.

Education, irrespective of discipline, should be under the purview of the HRD Ministry as others have little experience in dealing with the subject. Therefore, all media-related educational institutions, including IIMC, FTII, Pune, and SRFTI, Kolkata, should be brought under the domain of HRD/Education Ministry to ensure that students/faculty get the same facilities at par with other universities.

Given the vibrancy of Indian media as a powerful voice in the democratic world, establishment of a National Communications University on the lines of similar institutions in countries such as China, which would nurture indigenous research and publication in the field, would be an idea worth consideration. Last but not the least, management of educational institutions, media related or otherwise, should be in the hands of media persons, academicians or educationists and not career bureaucrats. One really wonders whether ambitious programmes such as Chandrayaan would have taken off if ISRO and the Department of Science and Technology were not in the hands of scientists/technocrats.  – The New Indian Express

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