In a time when the global media exerts a greater influence on our individual and collective consciousness than ever before, it is vital that our current generation of students develop their ability to critically analyse the mass messages they receive.
Questioning how meaning is constructed through film, television, newspapers and social media is the first skill students master through the International A Level Media Studies programme. They do this by examining closely the work of those who have made the most memorable contributions to the modern media landscape - auteurs such as Alfred Hitchcock - and those whose more disposable media products burn brightly for just a few moments on our mobile devices (thank you Piko-Taro for your infuriating contribution to this work!).
It is fascinating to watch as students move from passive consumers of media, to the eagle-eyed critics who no longer simply “enjoy” a Saturday night movie. Hollywood blockbusters can still entertain, but media students will be dissecting them immediately afterwards, challenging the efficacy of the camera work, the editing and the sound in their essays; wondering which techniques they will improve upon when creating their own short films.
The practical skills which students gain in Media Studies are invaluable in the 21st Century workplace, where businesses are increasingly dependent upon the success or failure of their media campaigns. These skills gain even greater purchase when coupled with the second major strand of the course - analysing why media products have been created and questioning the motives of the institutions and multinational corporations behind them.
Teaching Media Studies is challenging: the rapidly changing media landscape necessitates continued revision of teaching materials to ensure the syllabus remains relevant to each cohort of students. We have lively discussions in class and students need to use all their persuasive skills when experiencing ‘creative differences’ with their classmates. However, it is by encouraging freedom of expression and independence of thought that our International A Level media students continue Ho Chi Minh’s legacy of engaging critically with - and contributing creatively to - the wider society in which they live.
Kirstin McKie - Head of Media Studies