This sign, believe it or not, is the very first one to catch your eye as you enter what is the Thai equivalent of a Waterstones or Barnes & Noble store, located in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district.
So, question: why is MEDIA EDUCATION such a big draw for the Thai reading public? The answer, of course, lies in how you define MEDIA EDUCATION. And no, the bestsellers in Thailand are not media studies textbooks, or media syllabus guides, or how to be a good media teacher books, or academic monographs of any description.
MEDIA EDUCATION in Thailand means interactive software, on CD-ROM and other formats, designed to improve one’s English or Mandarin Chinese language skills. There’s a huge demand for hi-tech educational products in a society where general literacy levels, especially in reading and writing, are by no means universally good, and where foreign languages are not widely spoken or taught, especially in state schools.
But of course, MEDIA EDUCATION, defined in this way, is also a huge feature of English-speaking societies too. Since the days when educators realised the pedagogic value of film education in schools, nicely depicted in the 1950s American youth-delinquency pic Blackboard Jungle, media technologies have played a key role (though not necessarily a central one) in the educational experience.
So long live MEDIA EDUCATION with capitals! And let’s all live in the hope that the more scholarly, theoretical and researcherly definition of media education - the one we media students and academics are familiar with – finds an equally prominent place in the hearts and minds of the public conscience, in Thailand and beyond.