"Education and knowledge are key to shaping opinion" | DW Global Media Forum | DW | 30.05.2012
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"Education and knowledge are key to shaping opinion"

Interview with Erik Bettermann, Director General of Deutsche Welle

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development ends in 2014. Does that mean that the topic of Education for All will soon be passé?

Not at all. Education in all its aspects has lost none of its relevance. It is one of the most vital elements of globalization and our future. So it remains pertinent, including here in Germany. Knowledge and education are an important resource for this country, too. In a world driven by information and knowledge, lifelong learning applies not only to individuals, but also to whole societies and nations. Cultural upbringing and education are key to peaceful interaction, development and intercultural dialogue. We must sustainably raise public awareness of that, globally - and beyond 2014.

Do we need another global educational offensive?

Yes, because we still have a long way to go before everyone can access and participate in the global village's wealth of knowledge and education resources. On the one hand we live in a networked information society. On the other hand, around 800 million people worldwide are illiterate. "Digital literacy" is another challenge. One third of the world's population can access the Internet. For them, knowledge is just a mouse click away, and communication and networking come naturally. All others are excluded. We have to create the means to close that gap.

How can the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum help to do that?

It is a meeting point for media representatives from around the world and experts from the fields of politics, culture, business, development cooperation and academia. Over the course of three days they develop interdisciplinary approaches to respond to such challenges. Many organizations and institutions are involved in more than 50 events that address a wide spectrum of education and culture.

For example, one focus will be on how learning is changing in the digital media age, in which people can study wherever and whenever they want. How will that impact conventional universities that require a physical presence? Do developing countries still need expensive university facilities or might it be wiser to invest in a virtual educational infrastructure? We'll also explore the question of how to convey political education. What is the role of diversity reporting that excludes nothing and no one? Case studies will show what individuals can do. One excellent example is Boukary Konaté, one of the winners of this year's Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards, The BOBs. In his blog he documents his efforts to make the Internet accessible to villagers in remote parts of Mali, in western Africa.

What role do international broadcasters like DW have?

The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum is a media congress with international reach. For one thing that means that many of our partner stations from around the world will be represented here in Bonn. It also means that we consistently shed light on the role of the media within the context of the overall conference theme. In terms of education and culture, the media play a crucial role.

International broadcasters like Deutsche Welle reach practically the entire world. One great challenge is to develop formats that convey knowledge and education through cooperative dialogue. Exchange between broadcasters in industrialized, transition and developing countries is part of that. Media must support - and even influence - these processes by presenting them thoroughly and providing background information and context. Education and knowledge are key to shaping opinion.

How does DW put that into practice?

We provide people with information needed for democratization and development, dialogue and peace. Part of our mandate is to convey a comprehensive picture of our country based on our canon of values. For example, we report on aspects of German society and culture that might stimulate interest and even serve as models abroad.

In reference to the conference theme, take for instance Germany's dual vocational education system, which is a strong export item. Our federal political system, dual broadcasting structures and German engineering ingenuity are other examples. But we also look beyond Germany to present successful education projects in other countries and make them accessible to a global audience in many languages. Information, education and intercultural dialogue are at the core of DW.

How is that reflected in its journalistic output?

Allow me to highlight a few projects: "Education for All" is one of our multimedia projects. It involves five young bloggers from Argentina, Germany, Iraq, Kenya and Russia who discuss the compelling issues that arise from their experiences with education and equal opportunities in their home countries. "Global Ideas" is a series featuring innovative ideas from around the world that are helping to create a better future. Our "Learning by Ear" radio dramas about everyday matters are produced in cooperation with our partners in Africa and Afghanistan. Our "Study in Germany" online pages are a rich resource for anyone interested in doing tertiary studies here. We also have a wide variety of language courses for those who want to learn German.

Yet another dimension of our educational mission is DW Akademie's portfolio of global media development. Its training and consulting activities range from children's television programming in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan - with workshops that include Afghan journalists and producers - to UNESCO's Centres of Excellence initiative in Africa, which focuses on journalism educators at 21 partner universities in 14 countries, through to supporting the development of public service broadcasting at formerly state-run stations in Arab and Latin American countries. DW Akademie invests its efforts in long-term projects because in this segment, too, our main focus is on sustainability - and on dialogue based on partnership.