Reforming Iraqi Journalism and Mass Communication Higher Education: Adapting the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education to Iraqi Higher Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

Journalism and mass communication higher education in Iraq is well established but largely isolated from global developments since the 1970s. In the post-Iraq war period, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) implemented a multiyear project to work with the leadership of Iraqi higher education to help update the curriculum in journalism and mass communication in that country. This project adapted the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education to the evolving higher education environment in Iraq. The authors were funded by UNESCO to help facilitate the adoption and adaptation of the model curriculum to the unique situation in Iraq.

Keywords

UNESCO, Iraq, developing countries, journalism education

In Iraq, recent generations of journalism educators and students have suffered under first repressive and then chaotic work and study conditions. Dictatorial government control was replaced by the terrors of sectarian violence. The result was much selfcensorship as a survival tactic. Yet journalism and mass communication (JMC) higher education in Iraq is well established. Several colleges and universities offer two-year and four-year degrees in journalism and mass communication, including Baghdad University and in the Kurdish region (KRG) of northern Iraq (e.g., Salahaddin University and the Technical Institute in the KRG capital city Erbil). These schools offer undergraduate as well as graduate-level study, including masters and doctoral programs. But these programs had been largely isolated since the 1970s under the Saddam Hussein regime. Faculty members were heavily restricted in their ability to travel or communicate with the West and had to refrain from teaching students to criticize the regime. Today, in the relative postconflict environment of Iraq, its JMC programs are in dire need of curricular reform.

In the postwar period since 2010, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has sponsored the implementation of a multiyear project to work with the leadership of Iraq higher education to help update the curriculum in journalism and mass communication at both Baghdad University and at Universities in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. This project involved the application of the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education to the situation in Iraq.1 The UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education were created by a UNESCO working group in 2007 as a "guide suitable for use in developing countries and emerging democracies." Since specific needs differ throughout the world, it is of value to adapt and amend this framework to fit specific needs in various regions. The Iraq project was created to assess the unique concerns of post-Hussein and postwar Iraqi journalism education and develop addenda to the model curricula to address those factors. Among participants in this project were faculty members and deans from the schools of journalism and mass communication at Baghdad University and in Kurdistan as well as senior administrators from the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE).

Technological developments are particularly problematic for Iraq educators and students. In some cases, such as at the Technical Institute in Erbil, up-to-date equipment is available to students, but instructors skilled in its use are scarce and teacher training is needed. A lack of computer equipment and other state-of-the-art journalism tools is a technological crisis at Baghdad University. The problem is exacerbated by a shortage of broadband Internet connectivity and even adequate electricity to power computers-were they and the Internet even available. The situation in Baghdad is particularly problematic, where the war has decimated the infrastructure and equipment needs are significant. A representative of the UNESCO JMC curriculum project visited Baghdad University, for example, to assess equipment needs and reported that that there is very little media technology of any kind. …