DW Akademie's first school competition in the Republic of Moldova was all about inspiring students and teachers to engage with media, both critically and competently.
"I was pretty sure that a small school like ours, with just 101 students, wouldn't make the second round, but we ended up among the winners," says Valentina Țurcan. She teaches at a high school in Slobozia-Chiscareni, around 110 kilometers from the Moldovan capital, Chișinău.
Țurcan's school was one of 21 taking part in the first nationwide school competition focusing on Media and Information Literacy, or MIL. The project was devised by the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) in collaboration with DW Akademie. "We wanted to get teachers thinking about conveying media literacy beyond the classroom," says Mariana Tabuncic, project coordinator at IJC. Since 2020, MIL has been on the curriculum in all three of Moldova's school systems: elementary, middle and high school. Among other things, DW Akademie has advised IJC on the development of curricula and textbooks, as well as supporting the partner organization's lobbying work.
Three schools were honored for their compelling presentation of sophisticated teaching concepts regarding media and information literacy, and for putting them into practice. There were no creative limits: One school organized a dance Flash Mob, another set up a Young Journalists Club, while another even created its own TV show. The conception and execution phases took place six months in advance. Part of the competition involved presentations by the teachers, who used images and video to showcase their students' projects. Participation in the contest was worthwhile: Interactive white boards were awarded as prizes for the best three MIL concepts, a big win for modern and digital teaching in schools that otherwise don’t have access to such technology.
The "Dimitrie Cantemir" school in Chișinău danced its way to victory. Romanian teacher Aliona Pîntea says that MIL is vital for the Republic of Moldova's youth: "Especially young people can quickly fall into the traps that the internet brings, especially now in the pandemic, when even classes are held online." She and her students decided to perform a dance Flash Mob to publicly highlight the importance of digital security.
Each dance step has a meaning, with the performers using their bodies to portray tips like "Use strong passwords!", "Protect your personal data!" and "Don't post pictures of other people without their consent!" Pîntea says, "It was great to watch the children internalizing the MIL tips as they repeated the dance moves. Isn't that a great way to teach media literacy?"
Valentina Țurcan and the students from the high school in Slobozia-Chiscareni started a Young Journalists Club, where the children could publish their own "wall newspapers". This involves pictures and text being set out nicely on a pinboard, which is then hung in a clearly visible place. "Regardless of whether it was typed or written by hand, the main thing was that the students were able to agree on topics and work together as a team," says Țurcan. The result was that, as well as the production of exciting "newspapers," new learning communities were also formed.
Although the elementary school from Comrat wasn't among the winners with its self-produced TV show, teacher Elena Mocanu knows the school benefited from taking part. "It wasn't enough to win," she says, "but we gained something else: good contacts with GRT, the only public broadcaster in the region, which helped us produce the show. The experience allowed the children to conduct interviews, try their hand at presenting and get an idea of what a reporter's job is like."
For the teachers taking part, it wasn’t only a case of inspiring their students and increasing the children’s awareness of media and information literacy. They were also able to get their colleagues, and even some parents and grandparents, on board, thereby spreading important information about MIL. "We're now one step further in our efforts to get people in Moldova to think critically," explains Mariana Tabuncic of IJC. The success speaks for itself: The Ministry of Education, Culture and Research has pledged to support the project in the coming years. Tabuncic hopes the MIL school competition will continue, and even become a tradition.
The project is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.