Remodelling journalism education

2015-03-14

Ekantipur

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It has been four decades since the inception of journalism education in Nepal. Today, Tribhuvan University (TU) , Purbanchal University (PU) and Kathmandu University (KU)  all have bachelor’s and master’s programmes on the subject. The Higher Secondary Board also offers plus-two journalism classes. But while that increase in student interest in journalism courses is encouraging, there have been widespread complaints that universities do not produce graduates with the requisite tools needed to work as journalists. There is a huge gap between the expectation of media houses and the manpower produced from Nepal’s universities.

The problem essentially has its roots in the universities’ substandard courses, and with their not being result-oriented. Furthermore, many of the journalism and mass communication departments lack the mechanisms for monitoring the courses they offer.

In this context, the Journalism Curriculum for Nepali Universities, published recently by the Unesco Kathmandu office and Development Society Nepal, could be a handy referral guide for universities here. The book is a product of a study taken by experts who have had extensive involvement with journalism education.

The book analyses the curricula of these universities, outlines the weaknesses in the pedagogical methods and provides suggestions for instituting measures that would make the syllabus more practical and comprehensive.

The framework suggested by the book can be used to create a standardised curriculum that is flexible enough to be adapted to the specific needs of institutions. It has taken into account the social, economic, political and cultural context of Nepal and highlights the connections between journalism, development and democratic discourse.

The book has also come up with separate suggestions for TU, PU and KU. For example, it states that TU’s curricula are not updated regularly to meet the needs of the changing times, and that the university needs to do so as soon as possible.

The book also homes in on how the universities have not made an effort to establish institutional relationships between media houses and universities. Owing to this lack, the book states that although students do imbibe quite a bit of theoretical knowledge, they gain almost no practical experience in the field. Thus when they enter the media sector, they have difficulties transforming theoretical knowledge into practice.  

And even when the colleges do create internship opportunities for students at media houses, the students—because they have not been briefed properly on the actual goings-on in a real-life newsroom—often struggle with their responsibilities, and feel overwhelmed and out of place.

The problem starts with the lack of infrastructure and equipment that could help familiarise students with real-world work processes and story-generation cycles. For instance, there are quite a few institutions in the country that advertise certificate courses for specific mediums like radio, TV or photojournalism, but most of these colleges do not even have studios or cameras for student use, and their curricula have not been updated to incorporate classes that teach the students how to work with new technology. Most of the colleges, according to the book, do not even have good libraries.

Resources are another important area that the book has explored. Most of the textbooks and reference works used in the country are written in English. The Nepali-language books that have been written are mostly of dismal quality. And although PU offers a master’s level course that explores about gender inequality and social exclusion, most curricula around the country have not incorporated such issues.

Many graduates today who get into the media with big dreams and unrealistic expectations from themselves, thus, usually struggle to adjust to the way journalism is practiced in the real world. The media industry needs quality personnel who are well-versed in not just journalistic theories and foundations of ethical practice, but also requires fresh grads who can be groomed to become good journalists. Many who have the drive leave the sector because they are not paid well, but many also do so because their education has not prepared them to cope with the daily grind of the newsroom. If the universities in the country pay heed to the suggestions made by the Journalism Curriculum for Nepali Universities, and overhaul or tweak their curricula accordingly, they might just produce graduates who will start out with the tools needed to become successful journalists.

Author: Kamal Dev Bhattarai, originally published in The Kathmandu Post on 14th March.