Finland promotes media literacy as a civic skill

Julia Alajärvi is a senior adviser at the National Audiovisual Institute’s Department of Media Education and Audiovisual Media. In this column, she writes about the current place of media literacy in Finland and the world.

The world has never before been as interconnected as it is today, but communities are still experiencing polarisation and uncertainty.

The internet and social media in particular offer us endless possibilities, but also challenges we should be aware of and address. People need up-to-date media knowledge and skills in order to fully participate in their societies.

When people have good media literacy skills, it is more difficult to influence them with disinformation or make them act against their own best interests. Without media literacy, people have much less power to influence the things that matter to them, and there is significantly less trust in their society.

In Finland, there is a long history of promoting media literacy. In the 1950s, some schools were already offering mass communication education which focused on newspapers and radio. Around 25 years ago, the first university-level media education programme was established. Today, media education includes all forms of media, both offline and online. Part of media literacy is learning how to navigate social media in a healthy way.

In 2022, Finland was ranked at the top of the Media Literacy Index comparing 41 European countries. The index assesses the ability to resist fake news using media freedom, education and trust in people. In Finland, media literacy is part of curricula from early childhood education to upper secondary level and it is integrated in all subjects. It is also part of teachers’ education. There are several themes teachers choose from, for example evaluating and analysing media, operating in media environments and producing your own media. There is multi-sectorial cooperation: early childhood education and schools work together with NGOs, libraries, youth centres and parents.

Finland has its own policy on media literacy and media education, which the National Audiovisual Institute is responsible for implementing.

By Julia Alajärvi, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2023

You can also check out the Digipower Investigation by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra.