I teach at a Business Academy in Slovakia. The group I tested the activity with consisted of first year students of specialized post-secondary studies in Tax Services (age 18+). In this class I taught Economics. During the testing period we started a new topic with the name Global Economic Relations. I assumed that the majority of the class had a broad economic overview and understanding of economic contexts, because they were recently students of business-oriented school, on the other hand part of the class were students with little background in global economics knowledge and therefore their decisions won´t be influenced by theoretical background in global economics.
I decided to create an activity which would connect economics and mass media. I based my decision on the assumption that our media create strong images of west-centrism through the type of information they present.
I assumed that students tend to assign positive news to Europe and North America and negative news to other continents, especially Africa, Asia and South America. I required them to justify their reasons for the chosen continent in order to better clarify their choice in the analysis. This should enable more objective evaluation of the attitudinal changes by repeated testing.
I tested the activity with 10 students of the post-secondary studies during Economics classes. It took about 20 minutes to complete the worksheets. Afterwards we had a short reflection on the activity and during this we tried to get some quick results. Already these quick results pointed out a high rate of west-centrism amongst the group.
To evaluate the results, I assigned 2 points to Europe and North America, and 0 points to the other continents for positive news stories, and the reverse for negative news. The higher the score, the higher the west-centrism rate of the students.
Students rate – 1st year students of post-secondary studies
|News 2||News 3||News 4||News 5||News 6||News 7||News 8|
|Students rate – whole class (10 students)||14||12||14||16||20||16||20||6|
From the table we see that the lowest west-centrism rate is for the news article no.8, which was a positive article about tourism. The highest west-centrism rate was for the news article no.5 which related to illiteracy rates, and news article no.7 which was about bad living conditions in rural areas. Students clearly assumed that positive articles were about the West, and negative ones were about the Global South.
With the initial testing I confirmed my assumption that the level of west-centrism is very high among Secondary students and that we assign mostly positive news to the continents of Europe and North America and negative news we connect with other continents. In order to use this activity without changes as a final activity we have to ensure that the respondents do not get to know the right answers. In order to eliminate the west-centric view, I suggest devoting more time and attention to other continents and informing students about their positive development in social as well as economic topics.
Use online newspapers from countries in Africa, Asia and South and Central America to find more balanced news events. Magazines are a great way to spot similarities, between fashion, culture, sport etc.
If you have a link with a school in another country, create a joint project celebrating positive news from your and their locations. You could also explore challenging aspects in both places, homelessness, poverty injustice etc. and share suggestions for ways to take action.