IB schools in UAE to teach kids how to spot 'fake news'
Dubai - The topics fall under a new course called Digital Society, which has been launched by the IB board.
By Sarwat Nasir
Published: Sun 21 Apr 2019, 5:32 PM
UAE students attending International Baccalaureate schools will soon be learning about 'fake news' as part of a new requirement in their curriculum.
Pupils will be educated on how to identify genuine and false news stories, along with the impact fake news can have on a person's life.
Fake news - a phrase popularised by US President Donald Trump and other conservatives - has been under the spotlight worldwide, and social media platforms have been criticised for spreading it.
Facebook, for example, has launched several initiatives to combat this issue, including shutting down many accounts that were found publishing hoax stories.
The new subjects are applicable to thousands of pupils enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme and career-related programmes across UAE schools.
The topics fall under a new course called Digital Society, which has been launched by the IB board. It will teach students the importance of ethical, social and cultural understanding of technology and media.
"There is such a shift on how we're learning about the world around us. There is so much potential for unethical media out there to spread information that isn't true. So, how do we arm our students to be fantastic digital citizens in order to have their filter on what's reliable and true?" said James MacDonald, vice-president of education at GEMS Education, who oversees the IB-curriculum schools in the UAE.
"We'll be teaching them to think critically and engage critically with media. We actually have excellent resources for this. So, if you're at a website, you will see who has published that website and what the URL tells you. Based on that alone, we will ask the students to think very critically about the reliability of that source.
"Looking into the effects of social media - Twitter, for example - we take into account who the source is and whether it can be trusted. In a lot of ways, we're training students to think very critically about the world around them."
He said the students would also be tested on their knowledge of these topics. They'll be given two articles and pupils will have to do an analysis on which one is legitimate.
Almas Qureshi, head of information and communication technology at Raffles World Academy, said their students start learning about fake news from Grade 6.
And when the pupils reach higher levels and enroll in the diploma programme or career-related programme, they are required to show deeper knowledge on identifying genuine news stories.
"This subject will benefit students because in this day and age - where everything is algorithm-based - if they can't judge what is right or wrong, they'll be falling into a trap. It will force them into a world where they don't check what is true or false, right or wrong," Qureshi said.
"We try to incorporate this kind of education from a very young age. From Grade 6 onwards, we give them images and articles so they can use their critical thinking. We teach them how not being able to identify fake news can impact their lives in different ways - mentally and financially, for example."
What is the Digital Society course?
This course is an update for IB's current 'Information Technology in a Global Society' course. Through this subject, students will be learning about fake news, security, social media algorithms and privacy.
Joel Adams, curriculum manager for the emerging digital societies course, said: "Digital technology and media are changing our world, transforming how we think, communicate and create. For the last two years, we have been hard at work designing for these changes with this exciting updated course.
"Digital Society will allow educators and young people to critically explore the changing world to better understand where we are now and imagine where we might go next."
A media project, which is also part of the course, will ask students to investigate and evaluate the ethical, social and cultural implications arising from the use of digital technologies and media in the world around them.