Digital literacy should be ‘fourth pillar of education’ says government committee

The final report on fake news and disinformation from the DCMS has come with advisory notes suggesting the promotion of digital literacy in education

Advisory notes to the DCMS final report on fake news and disinformation suggest that digital literacy should become the ‘fourth pillar of education’. 

The report comes as discussions around digital literacy and young people’s ability to discern between fact and opinion are at a high. 

The advisory committee notes to the report state: “Digital literacy should be a fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing and maths.” 

Programmes currently run across the UK to address the digital literacy skills gap, such as the Internet Citizens course run by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) in partnership with Google. 

Josh Phillips, project coordinator at the ISD, said: “Having critical thinking skills, and being able to critically assess the media and form balanced opinions, and get news from diverse online sources, is really at the heart of what we’re trying to empower teachers to go and teach to their students.”

However, these programmes are not a required element of the curriculum, and as such the DCMS advisory notes are proposing a much larger-scale change to the UK’s state education system.

A study released by Stanford University in 2016 similarly investigated US students’ ability to tell fact from fake in online news, and found that digital literacy levels were often questionable. 

The executive summary to the report states: “Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”

For a more in-depth look at this story, and the current impact of fake news and disinformation on young people in the UK, see The Report.