OP-ED

Why information literacy is very vital in the fake news era

By Fred Amula

Last week I joined a discussion in one of the University students’ WhatsApp groups. Knowing that this is an intellectual society where critical ideas can be exchanged to analyze and recommend solutions to societal problems based on facts and critical analysis. Once more, I gave my time to peruse the various groups of which I am a part.

Alas, I found much sharing of false information, which sometimes led to debates of great sadness. For what is sadder than a debate on fake news? It is like watching two monkeys argue over who has the better imaginary banana. The only difference is that the monkeys are probably more informed.

I pose a little in my patrol and ask where, how, and why this problem is. There is a big problem. I see we are blind to this issue which is deep-rooted somewhere. However, this gave me the impetus to think deeply about the importance of information literacy skills in the 21st century.

The crisis reminded me of the article in TheObserver written by Mr Yusuf Sserunkuma on May 31 titled; “It is not the expired course, but an overall miseducation.” Very interesting piece!

”…As someone based at Makerere University, I have seen many students walk into the Makerere University gate (with super grades), and leave with superb grades, but lacking confidence and zero personal and professional skills. Often they are unable to express themselves in any language or simply plan their days. The true definition of miseducation”, Mr Sserunkuma wrote.

I agree with him largely that miseducation is a major problem in Uganda. I do also agree that this problem is due to several factors, including the poor quality of primary and secondary education as well as the lack of emphasis on practical skills in the curriculum.

I also recall Dr Lawrence Muganga’s book, “You Can’t Teach a fish how to Climb a Tree: Overcoming educational malpractice through authentic learning.”

In this book, Mr Muganga argues that our current education system is outdated and ineffective. He compares our schools to 19th-century factories, where students are taught to memorise facts and regurgitate them on tests.

This type of education does not prepare students for the real world, where they need to be able to think critically, solve problems, and collaborate.

Mr Muganga proposes a new model of education called “authentic learning.” Authentic learning is student-centred and focuses on real-world problems. Students are given opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways. This type of learning prepares students for the challenges of the 21st century.

I agree with Mr Muganga that our current education system is outdated and ineffective. It is true, we are often taught to memorise facts and regurgitate them on tests and yet we need to be able to use our knowledge in meaningful ways.

Sadly, I’ve never seen a fish climb a tree, but I’ve seen plenty of students in school who are bored out of their minds. Maybe if we made school more fun and engaging, students would be more likely to learn.

According to the America Library Association, Information literacy is the ability of an individual to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information. It is a critical skill for success in school, work, and life.

Unfortunately, information literacy is not typically taught at an early stage, such as in primary school. Instead, it is often taught at the higher education level, and even then, it is often only embedded in a few courses.

In the 21st century, information literacy is more important than ever. We are living in a world where information is abundant, but it is also increasingly complex and fragmented. To succeed in this world, we need to be able to find, evaluate, and use information effectively.

Teaching information literacy skills at an early age is like giving students a compass. It is an investment in their future that will pay off in the long run.

Students who are information illiterate are at a disadvantage in the 21st century. They may not be able to find and evaluate information effectively and make critical analyses.

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Fred Amula, amufredi@gmail.com



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