As part of the Read Twice project, we talked to experts and citizens and analysed the country’s curricula to find out what is lacking in terms of education to make Bulgarian society less vulnerable to fake news and disinformation campaigns.
The facts are alarming: in 2023 for yet another year, Bulgarian society has been deemed the most vulnerable to disinformation in the European Union, as shown by the Media Literacy Index of the Open Society Institute – Sofia. The authors attribute this low score to several factors, the dominant of which is the quality of education.
Moreover, Bulgaria still lacks a strategic working national approach to teaching media literacy, which, combined with a problematic media environment, puts Bulgarian users in a very challenging position facing an increasingly confusing information flow.
In this context, and as part of the EU-funded project Read Twice, Euro Advance analysed the needs of different target groups when it comes media literacy and in particular – gaining skills that help limit the spread of disinformation.
We talked to 13 experts from the sectors of formal and informal education, the media, and NGOs and gathered their views as to what constitutes the biggest challenge when it comes to teaching media literacy, who and how should teach it and what the target groups they are working with need most.
We also surveyed 50 online users to establish how they feel about their disinformation response readiness and how they would improve the educational process. Finally, we studied the current educational curricula to find strengths and faults when it comes to boosting media literacy and preparedness against disinformation. Due to the lack of coordinated action at the national level, we also offer some best practices that can remedy the situation.
The almost missing media literacy education
We discovered that media literacy is almost absent from the lower educational levels curricum, while in higher education it is mainly encountered in specialised programs, such as those found in journalism and communications faculties. The specific topic of fake news and disinformation is rarely touched upon overall.
The fact that media literacy training is not a priority is hardly surprising, given the general issues with the quality of Bulgarian education, which consistently fails to teach critical thinking. The lack of coordinated efforts to fix the issue at the national level also results in many teachers not having the confidence and the skills to teach subjects in this domain, and this further aggravates the perspectives to resolve the problem.
What we also discovered is that the need to improve society‘s media literacy and disinformation response readiness is well identified by the target groups themselves, by the people working with them and by members of society with higher education. This, however, also coexists with overconfidence in one’s own abilities to discern facts from fakes and with the extensive use of social media as the main information source. That misjudged confidence might contribute to the risk of falling victim to disinformation as well.
A widespread expert opinion is that media literacy must be included as a topic in formal educational settings as early as possible, but under the condition that those who teach it are well acquainted with the subject. Correspondingly, the need to train teachers how to use digital tools is very pressing, according to experts.
Not claiming to be descriptive of the entire Bulgarian society or to follow rigorous scientific standards, our findings report is nevertheless a good indication of what may need to improve while suggesting actions to be taken to remedy the situation. At the end of the document, we give some recommendations to different parties of interest. The recommendations are derived from what we’ve learned from our respondents.
For a more detailed explanation of our findings, please download the document from this link.
This document is produced in the framework of the EU-funded project Read Twice, which aims to counter disinformation and limit the spread of fake news by enhancing citizens` skills to assess critically information, identify vicious and harmful media content and distinguish between facts and opinions, thus improving their media literacy competences.
The contents of the publication are the sole responsibility of Euro Advance Association and its authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.