The Doha Centre for Media Freedom (DCMF) aims to introduce the Media Literacy Programme in Qatar. UNESCO defines Media Literacy as “the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.” In recognition of the importance of empowering citizens to cope with new technologies and media messages, the centre conducted two surveys on the integration and use of media in formal education in Qatar. The surveys targeted students and teachers from schools across Qatar between January and March 2012. The pioneering effort will aid the Media Literacy (ML) programme in its mandate to enhance formal education.
A. Analysis Framework
- Preparation of Questionnaires
The centre conducted two different surveys directed at teachers and students in Qatar. The surveys relied on multiple choice and short essay questions.
- Distributions & Communications
The centre contacted all the various schools in Qatar. The two questionnaires along with the official letter of purpose were sent via email.
The survey was positively received by fifteen schools in Qatar. The centre’s final sample consisted of 204 student questionnaires, as well as 187 teacher questionnaires.
B. Scope and Limitations
- Lack of interest
Since the surveys coincided with the midterm exams, they received limited interest from schools. However, due to its official launch in September 2012, the Media Literacy programme was restricted in its choice of the surveys’ time period.
- Limited research on Media Literacy
There is virtually no research available on Media Literacy in Qatar. As such, the centre carried out an unprecedented initiative to assess the use of media in classrooms across the country.
- Limited staff and technology
Due to budgetary limitations, data extraction was carried out manually by an intern and part-time staff member. Since it was challenging for schools to arrange for their teachers and students to electronically answer the questionnaires, hard copies were produced and collected.
The Medial Literacy students' questionnaire was designed to assess media usage in Qatar Schools, as well as students' comprehensive knowledge about the concept and operating of media literacy. Conducted between January & March 2012, the survey targeted different gender schools in Qatar. The project was met with great excitement; 15 schools successfully participated in the survey. The total number of completed questionnaires is 207.
Basic Information on the sample surveyed
The majority of students surveyed are female (65%) in the average age ranges between 8 to 18 years old which includes the entire education levels of different schools in Qatar.
Use of Media
Most of the respondents use media as 93% of the students practicing media. This includes radio, television, mobile, newspapers, and internet technologies.
When asked about reading newspapers, 44% of students answered yes whereas 34% answered no and 22% refrained. Arabic is the most common language used in newspapers as 88% of students read Arabic newspapers whereas only 10% read newspapers in English.
When asked about radio, only 59% of students listen to radio. The radio channels vary from religious, local, sports, entertainment, etc.
There is a low interest in watching news on television. The most favourable programs on television vary from movies, cartoons, and talent shows to sports. News is the least preferred programmes inserted by students. The study shows 6% of students are interested in news programs, 19% watch movies, and 15% watch cartoons. It is been known that Al Jazeera channel with 17% is among the most frequently preferred channels. The other most likely are Qatar Satellite Channel 16% and al-Kass Sports 15%.
The most common form of media is Internet as 98% of students use internet as a source for networking portrays news, and education. This suggests the students’ involved with digital media. The most popular websites categories among students are social networking sites for (42%) and games and entertainment sites for another (42%).
Role of Media:
When student asked about the role of Media, they perceive media a source of education and knowledge, and tact of connecting to their families and friends in which it is an important source of communication and awareness.
The Medial Literacy’s teachers questionnaire was designed to assess media usage in classrooms, as well as teachers’ knowledge about the concept and practice of media literacy. Conducted between January & March 2012, the survey targeted all schools in Qatar. The project was met with great enthusiasm; 15 schools successfully participated in the survey. The total number of completed questionnaires is 187, including 17 English questionnaires.
Basic information on the sample surveyed
The majority of teachers surveyed are male (65%) and in the 20-40 age group (75%). At 62%, the majority of the teachers surveyed work at public schools.
Media in the classroom
When asked about the most commonly-used media in classrooms, 63% of teachers surveyed chose internet with TV as a distant second (19%). This corresponds to the teachers’ perception of the students’ favorite media, where the top three media named are YouTube, Facebook, and internet. Almost 68% reported that their students use social media regularly.
At a staggering 45%, many of the teachers surveyed did not know if their students regularly followed the news; only 19% were able to name the news programmes their students watched; examples include Aljazeera’s news bulletins and talk shows, as well as weather forecasts. The result corresponds to 69% of teachers who denied ever watching a news programme in the classroom. While the teachers may not watch news together with their students, they certainly discuss it; nearly 47% of teachers surveyed confirm discussing news on an occasional basis. Among the most frequently-discussed topics are the Arab Spring, sports, weather & environment, Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, and Qatar’s National Day.
The concept and practice of Media Literacy
More than 88% of teachers surveyed confirmed using media in their classrooms, citing internet, newspapers, & magazines. Yet, nearly 60% of the sample never heard of Media Literacy. It follows that 80% do not teach Media Literacy in their classes.
Approximately 22% of those familiar with the term defined Media Literacy as “understanding everything you watch, hear and read,” while 17% described it as “learning how to critically consume media messages.” When asked if more attention should be dedicated to Media Literacy, nearly 80% responded positively with 55% demanding further information. It follows that 79% expressed interest in receiving Media Literacy training, again with 47% demanding further information. When asked about introducing Media Literacy to school curriculums, 71% responded positively. The answers varied on the time that could be allotted to Media Literacy; 21% said half a day would suffice, while 24% preferred a whole day, with 12% favoring two days instead.
Media in Qatar
When asked about their perception of media freedom in Qatar, 36% of teachers surveyed said it is not restricted with a slightly higher percentage (37%) choosing limited as their answer. A surprising 24% denied knowledge about the status of media freedom in Qatar, while 3% abstained.
- There are high percentages of media consumption amongst students in Qatar. These include different forms of media such as radio, internet, mobile technologies, and television. Therefore, we recommend implementing Media Literacy (ML) programmes to broaden students’ perspectives and understanding of media. This might limit risks of using media.
There are high percentages of using internet amongst students in Qatar. We recommend promoting media literacy programs via internet including social networking sites. We also recommend promoting news analysis and evaluation via internet. This might be initiated through issuing an electronic daily newspaper in Qatar.
- Most of the news is exposed to students in Arabic. Therefore, we recommend targeting students in Arabia media. We also recommend developing students’ interest in accessing international news. This will make students more exposed to the international community.
- Since news accessed via radio is limited, we may promote the usage of radio via smartphone and internet applications (high number of students use mobile technology and internet).
- Institute media literacy as a recognized programme in formal education, and ensure continuous training for media people, educators and policy makers.
- Introduce Media Literacy training for teachers. In addition to raising awareness about the concept & practice of Media Literacy, training will enable teachers to voice their concerns with the media landscape in Qatar and elsewhere.
- Integrate Media Literacy in curriculums.
- Based on the answers of teachers surveyed when asked about media freedom in Qatar, the Media Programme recommends a special research project to assess public perception about the status of media freedom in Qatar, and identify their expectations of a free and fair media landscape.