In a World Bank study from 2005 called “Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century,” economist determined that once all of the world’s natural resources and produced capital is taken into account, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is comprised of intangible factors such as trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. All this intangible capital also boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, “Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.”
The World Bank economist took this analysis even further by quantifying the intangible value of education and social institutions. According to their regression analyses, for example, the rule of law explains 57% of countries’ intangible capital. Education accounts for 36%.
Yes, 36%! That is an enormous figure, when one considers that, according to the study, the average American has access to over $418,000 in intangible wealth, while a Mexican’s intangible wealth is just $34,000. Education is truly one of our largest investments as a society, and the payoff from it represents both a sunk cost and an opportunity cost.
In the 21st Century, this linkage is more important than ever before, as both capital and human resources flow across boundaries practically at will. Organizations like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills have been formed by a combination of education organizations, media companies, industry, technology companies and others to help insure that the U.S. is prepared to compete through its education system, and media literacy is a key skill recognized by the Partnership and others as essential to lifelong learning and a prepared workforce.
21st Century Education and Media Literacy: A Hand-in-Hand Approach
The Consortium for Media Literacy is helping set the pace in media literacy education through its emphasis on professional development and research-based curriculum that fosters 21st century skills, while providing a sound methodology for learning and teaching critical thinking and production. Today, education needs to be geared toward process skills, toward the handling and understanding of information and data, not with its storage, which can be addressed through technology tools like the internet. The process skills of media literacy provide students and adults with the ability to be:
- Efficient managers of information
- Wise consumers of media
- Responsible producers of media
- Active participants and citizens in a global media culture
Today, media literacy is well-represented in state education standards, and this representation is growing as the process skills of media literacy become better understood and articulated. Major teaching organizations acknowledge media literacy as essential, and media literacy is growing at all levels of education in the U.S. as well as other countries. Canada and Australia require media literacy for high school graduation; the UK government has an established Office of Media Literacy in its Communications Ministry (OfCom); and media literacy is flourishing in all corners of the globe.
Media literacy provides a path to 21st Century learning, and the Consortium for Media Literacy is at the forefront in this new approach to education.