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Týden: Gov’t to teach children how to face propaganda

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Prague, Jan 24 (CTK) – The Czech government wants schoolchildren to learn orienting themselves in the flood of information and distinguish true news from fake, weekly Tyden has written, adding that Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka is to propose guidelines for schools to follow in this respect.
NGOs and security experts say propaganda articles including fake news have mushroomed in the Czech Republic with the aim to destabilise the society.
For example, the pro-Russian fifth column has asserted that the German military will invade the Czech Republic to force out the acceptance of Muslim refugees by Prague, Tyden writes.
Referring to an EU-financed programme of anti-polio vaccination, fake newscasts have described it as a latent biological attack on children in Ukraine, the weekly writes.
The Czech government recently decided to fight such propaganda.
After establishing a special Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats, it is focusing on the education of children, Tyden writes, citing PM Bohuslav Sobotka’s (Social Democrats, CSSD) answer to a lawmaker in the Chamber of Deputies.
Sobotka said the state should educate children in democracy by strengthening their ability to critically assess sources of information and learn to distinguish which piece of news is true and which is a fake, Tyden writes.
Details will be outlined in a new civic education plan. The cabinet will discuss it in May, Sobotka said.
The content of the educational programme is to be proposed by Chvojka (CSSD).
“I consider it important for the school to help students develop their critical thinking and thereby also their capability of assessing the information presented by the media and on the Internet,” Chvojka said.
The ministries of education, culture and justice cooperate on the plan with Chvojka.
“We mainly focus on changes in the modern history curricula,” the Education Ministry’s press department is quoted as saying.
It is widely known that school teachers often lecture on the past events from ancient history to World War Two end without having more time to teach modern history. As a result, the students do not know modern history and consequently they do not understand contemporary developments.
The ministry wants to change this, Tyden writes.
Sobotka’s words in the Chamber of Deputies met with embarrassed reactions, though most politicians and experts agree that a more intensive media education is needed.
“It depends on how the plan is implemented. It should not turn into a directive washing of young people’s brains,” Senator Miluse Horska (unaffiliated) has written on her blog.
The education should not be supervised by the political party that is currently in power, Senator Helena Langsadlova (opposition TOP 09) said, alluding to the Sobotka’s CSSD, of which Chvojka as well as Education Minister Katerina Valachova are members.
Defending himself, Sobotka said the planned project must secure “pluralist education, by no means an indoctrination,” Tyden writes.
However, judging by international PISA 2015 comparative tests, the problem of Czech students often rests in their low reader literacy, or inability to comprehend texts, rather than their inability to distinguish propaganda from true information, Tyden adds.

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