Many countries in the world have been paying attention to film literacy, some within the context of formal education in primary and secondary schools, providing a structured and systematic opportunity to watch, understand and even to make films just like how we learn to read and write. Others are beginning to advocate and introduce film education as part of their arts and culture education policy.

The medium is the message — The American vision

The 1960s saw its first attempt with film media in schools, where programmes were pioneered. However, even until the 1980s, there was still no national programme or curriculum on media studies launched at primary, secondary or even college level. Finally, in the 1990s, the call for media literacy gathered momentum, with the surge of pioneering projects, curriculum development and teacher education.

As with most school systems worldwide, it is difficult to find a place in the already congested curriculum. Education about media thus tends to be "integrated across the curriculum." In other words, media literacy is not necessarily a new subject, but a new way to teach all subjects. In Language Arts, however, it has been successfully built onto the traditional four strands of instruction: "reading/writing" and "listening/speaking," by adding two additional strands: "viewing/media." "Viewing" means using viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media; "media" means understanding the characteristics and components of the media.

See the following websites for more information:

Film as art and culture: The European experience

European countries began to introduce media education curricula into primary, secondary and college levels of schooling in the 1980s. We outline below experiences from three European countries: Finland for its liberal and all embracing attitudes; the United Kingdom and France for their long sophisticated cultural approaches.

(1) Finland

Finland, highly reputed for its liberal and effective basic education, has a strong media education stemming mainly from the efforts of state and municipal backed organisations and regional municipalities, some of which have been involved for over 50 years.

In 2007, the Ministry of Education set up a committee to chart the current state and development needs of media literacy in Finland, resulting in the proposal for an action programme. For example, according to the Education and Research Development Plan 2007-2012, the Ministry of Education will take a step forward in promoting the development of methods and materials for the advancement of media education and media literacy for the use in schools and educational institutes.

It should be noted that media education in Finland is now being carried out in day-care centres, elementary and upper secondary schools.

See the following websites for more information:

(2) United Kingdom

In UK, alongside the renowned British Film Institute, Film Education, a charity supported by the film industry, has taken up the task of educating children and youngsters since 1984.

Film is introduced not only in secondary, but also in primary schools. It is being taught not only as a tool to enhance language skills and other knowledge, but as a form of literacy in itself. In the subject "Film and English," students are expected to learn how to appreciate, analyse and criticize films in the way they do with the English language and literature. In "Film and History," students must pay attention to the construction process not just of the film but of the history that it represents. In other words, students should be aware that all history is "mediated" in some way, and film too is a version of what happened, given to us via a different medium.

In the public examination scheme, film studies is also offered in both AS and A Level. The AS Level is comprised of two units !V "Exploring Film Form" and "British and American Film," while the A Level includes the above plus a further two units !V "Film Research and Creative Projects" and "Varieties of Film Experience: Issues and Debates."

See the following websites for more information:

(3) France

Up to this day, France still stands as the country with the most sophisticated film culture, one who has always prided herself for her rich film heritage. The French ministry of education put forth a media awareness programme as early as the late 1970s, helping French citizens to avoid passive viewing and manipulation of moving images by learning how such images are produced and organised. They are also put into cultural context by associating with other forms of learning such as the written and spoken word.

In terms of the French scholastic system, the Baccalaureat, the national secondary school diploma programme, is divided into three streams – serie S (Science), serie ES (Economics and Social Science) and serie L (Literature). Since 1986, she has incorporated Cinema and Audiovisual (CAV) as a subject in the serie L. It should be noted that the L stream prepares students for careers in the humanities such as education, linguistics, and public service; thus they should consider arts, cinema and audiovisual as being one of their specialties as well.

See the following websites for more information:

Experimentations and trials: The Asian situation

Asian countries, though lagging behind their European counterparts in their awareness of the significance of film literacy in a modern world, are picking up with increasing momentum and beginning to develop film education programmes in view of a long term arts and culture policy. Both the Mainland and Taiwan started experimentation in the mid-90s while Korea kicked off a series of ventures related to the advocacy of public awareness of arts and cultural education with special reference to film at the start of the 21st century. Japan, on the other hand, remains quite passive when it comes to film education in the schooling system.

(1) Mainland China

Film education in the schooling system started with a proposal on film education by Professor Lei Zhengxiao, published in Beijing Technology Newspaper in 1980. In 1995, he started his experimentation on film education in a primary school in Wenzhou, the first with a film curriculum. Two years later, with the support of the Ministry of Education, he conducted a research and experimentation project on film education, involving 186 schools (including primary, secondary, and even kindergartens) in 21 provinces.

From a pool of over 6000 films suitable for young children and teenagers, the research team selected 500 titles for secondary and primary school children plus 300 for kindergartens organised under 36 categories with subsets complete with teaching kits. Until June 2009, 469 schools in 26 provinces have participated in this project. Indeed, compared to the scope of the country, this scheme covered only a small fraction of it. Nevertheless, we must not overlook the fact that the scheme was based on systematic research and studies stretching since 1995, aiming at a long term commitment.

 (2) Taiwan

In 1995, on the centenary of cinema, the Taiwan Government Information Office funded a workshop for educators, featuring a series of 20 world classics, followed by talks and discussions. While the programme was funded by the government, the programme was initiated by film critics and scholars who have had long standing dedication to the support of film culture.

Unfortunately, it was a one-off project and had not evolved into long term commitment on the part of the government. Since 2007, the government has been organising "Movies for Young Minds" in collaboration with Cimage Taiwan Film Co. and National Central University. With day camps and workshops, this programme has been catering for both teachers and young students.

While the 1995 programme focused more on the basics of film language with reference to world cinema, the latter has been putting emphasis on local cinema and its relevance to Taiwan society.

See the following websites for more information:

(3) South Korea

South Korea saw a strong movement in the propagation of film education in the early 2000s, when coincidentally the new Korean cinema was at its strongest. The KACES (Korean Arts & Culture Education Service) launched continuous public awareness efforts to increase public interest in the arts, emphasizing that the arts must be an integral part of our young people!|s education. Arts instructors dispatched by KACES participate in classroom instruction in five genres: traditional Korean music, drama, dance, filmmaking and animation.

To successfully broaden arts and culture education in schools, it was crucial to raise the awareness among school teachers and enhance their knowledge of related fields. In view of this, KACES had been developing research projects as well as various training programmes. Government funded organisations also established media centres around the country offering all kinds of programmes related to film and media, started filmmaking workshops in junior high schools and supported the publication of textbooks.

See the following websites for more information: