New study explains the role of media literacy in the Finnish policy framework: New opportunities for future directions

In international comparisons, Finland has often appeared as a frontrunner in promoting media literacy, especially from the perspective of national-level policies and structures.

We wanted to look into this topic more closely, so together with Saara Salomaa we conducted a study in which we looked for the policies published by the governmental ministries in Finland. We focused on the role of media literacy and media education in those documents. More specifically, we wanted to understand how the concepts of media education and media literacy have been framed in the policies.

You can download the full research article through the link but the main results are summarized as follows:

1. Media literacy have been part of the Finnish policy framework for a long time

The role of media literacy in the Finnish policy framework is twofold. On the one hand there is a specific national media literacy policy. The new updated policy Media literacy in Finland was published in December 2019 (previous published in 2013). On the other hand media literacy and media education are topics that have been included in other – often broader – policy areas as well.

2. Media literacy has a strong cross-sectoral nature

The results suggest that media education and media literacy are addressed widely across the different administrative sectors, but most often by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Altogether the topics were included in ten different ministries’ policies, including, e.g., communications, social affairs, and health

3. Media literacy has been framed from different perspectives

There is variance in the ways in which the media literacy and media education are presented in the policies. In this study we identified eight frames of media literacy, including:

  • protectionism,
  • cultural participation,
  • future working competences,
  • inclusion,
  • broad media education,
  • democracy,
  • national security, and
  • cosmopolitanism.

The emphasis of these different frames has changed and evolved through times. Even though media education is framed most commonly from a protectionist perspective, this perspective was most evident between 2005 and 2010. After that, media education is more commonly framed, for example, from democratic and inclusion perspectives. The latest notable trend is related to the frame of national security, most evident from 2016 onward.

New opportunities for cooperation

Based on the results we highlight the opportunities for future cooperation and emphasise the importance of nuanced understanding of the meanings of media education and media literacy.

As the role of media grows in society, culture and people’s lives, new opportunities and connections open up for media literacy work. The different frames of media education identified in this study encourage strengthening the media literacy approach in, for example, democracy education, art education, and global education.

The diversity of media education that appears through the different frames highlights also the importance of deep educational reflection and discussion. Since media education can be understood from different perspectives, the question should not
be whether media education is important or not, but rather what kind of media education is important and why.

These perspectives create inspiring possibilities and directions for the future media literacy.

Lauri Palsa
Senior adviser
National Audiovisual Institute

Picture: Pine Watt/Unsplash