Empowering youth with critical thinking skills for resisting disinformation and building active and responsible citizenship
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with IREX, the Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM), the Ministry of Education and Science and the Bureau for Development of Education launched the new Media Literacy Project YouThink. This five-year project brings Macedonian and international partners together to work with young people to develop the critical thinking and information engagement skills they need in order to build resilience to disinformation, thus contributing to building active, responsible, and empathy-driven citizenship.
IREX will implement the project in collaboration with the Institute of Communication Studies, the Youth Educational Forum, and a first-of-its-kind youth steering committee, Learn to Discern (Учат да распознаваат), which was established to ensure that the young people in the country play an important and active role in activity design, leadership, and decision-making on national and local level.
Ambassador Kate Byrnes emphasized that "no matter what the source, information is only powerful if people know how to use it. Those who use information responsibly will strengthen social cohesion, demand good governance, and take initiative to improve the lives and prospects of their families and communities."
The Minister of education and science, Mila Carovska in her address stressed that the new educational programs that are being implemented from 2021, should contribute to shaping generations who have more knowledge and skills for combating with fake news. “The citizens who have critical thinking skills actively participate in the public debate and they influence the changes. They challenge the institutions to be more transparent and accountable, which is really necessary for progress of the society that cares for everyone and for the economic growth and development of the state.”
Mihajlo Lahtov, the Project Director, emphasized that it is essential to work with young people from a very early stage and help them develop skills and habits they need to build resilience against disinformation. “USAID's Media Literacy Project YouThink will mobilize strategic partnerships across society to push for inclusion of media literacy concepts and critical information engagement skills in standard coursework through schools and universities at all grade levels, but also through non-formal activities at youth-led and youth-serving clubs and organizations,” Lahtov said.
Expressing his support for initiatives to improve the quality of education, Zekirija Hasipi, the Director of the Bureau for Development of Education, informed that media literacy is part of the new educational programs in purpose of “equipping students with skills for critical thinking, analyzing different forms of expression and incorporating media literacy.”
MIM Director Biljana Petkovska highlighted that “it is of key importance for primary and secondary teachers to acquire knowledge, skills, and educational resources through the project that will enable systemic integration of media literacy in the educational process.”
At the launch’s youth debate, five panelists from diverse backgrounds discussed the importance of media literacy in the information landscape today and of integrating such skills and resources into classrooms, so the young people could become more active actors in the society.
The panelists addressed various ways disinformation affects their lives and their communities, as well as possible mechanisms for combating this phenomenon. All participants emphasized that media literacy and critical thinking skills are indispensable for navigating the 21st Century information environment in a safe and responsible manner.
In addition, IREX, MIM, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Bureau for Development of Education under the umbrella of the Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding that reflects their cooperation and charts a clear way forward for the systemic introduction of media literacy and critical information engagement skills and concepts into primary and secondary school curricula throughout North Macedonia.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The American people, through USAID, have invested more than $833 million in North Macedonia since 1993. USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work advances economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience. Follow USAID in North Macedonia on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Web site.
The photo gallery of the event is available here.