Transforming media education paradigms: An interview with GMEC President Prof. (Dr.) K.G. Suresh

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Engaging with Prof. (Dr.) K.G. Suresh offered profound insights into media education, motivating us to embrace creativity and pursue excellence.

Prof. (Dr.) K.G. Suresh, the preeminent veteran in media education, has guided the inerasable nitty-gritty of journalism learning in India and beyond. 

As the Vice Chancellor of Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism & Communication and President of the Global Media Education Council (GMEC), Prof. Suresh's relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation has propelled the institutions to the forefront of media education. 

From newsrooms to university corridors, his insights resonate deeply in shaping the future orbit of media education, offering invaluable perspectives for educators, policymakers, and aspiring journalists alike.

It is to reckon that Prof. (Dr.) K.G. Suresh is on a mission to redefine media education and prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow. 

We at edInbox were privileged to have a fascinating discussion with Prof. (Dr.) K.G. Suresh. His insights have deepened our understanding of media education and inspired us to explore creation and excellence.

How would you describe the current state of media education in India globally?

Media education started in India over a century ago, and we have come a long way since then. Unlike medical, legal, and other technical education, media education remains an unregulated sector, which is why many teaching shops have mushroomed all over the country. Nevertheless, some state and central universities and institutions, as well as private university departments and institutes, have done well in producing some of our finest communicators. However, mass communication has yet to evolve and develop as a discipline, like political science or history. There still needs to be clarity on whether it is part of the humanities or social sciences. Due to poor funding patterns, state universities have their limitations so far as infrastructure, including studios, etc., are concerned. Media technology is constantly evolving, and given these institutions' financial state, they cannot do justice to the students. There's also the issue of limited job opportunities; except for the very committed ones, only a few bright students wish to pursue it as a career option. There is also a dearth of good teachers who are updated and upskilled. Whether it is good teachers or institutions, the ones we have are certainly among the best in the world.

What sets Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism & Communication apart, and what are its future goals?

Our university is Asia's first and India's largest media university. There's no aspect of media, including management, new media technology, language, and even cinema studies, for which we do not have specific teaching departments. We were among the first universities in the country to implement the National Education Policy 2020, and today, many institutions are emulating us. Though we are based out of the heartland of Hindi, we also have an exclusive English journalism program. We have state-of-the-art studios, including India's latest community radio station. We have played a key role in taking computer education to the remotest corners of the state through our five campuses and 1600 Associated Study Institutions. We currently have about two lakh students on our rolls. Our greatest strength and challenge are that we are a fully autonomous institution with zero funding from the state or central Governments. We pay our salaries and build our infrastructure yet offer the most affordable media education without any support whatsoever from outside. Our immediate future plans include:

  • Getting NAAC accreditation.
  • Expanding our footprint across India.
  • Offering more programs to our students.

How can media education become a primary focus in the education sector?

Media plays a critical role in educating and informing society at large. Therefore, it has to be the primary focus. For that, media education must conduct cutting-edge research in the industry. We need to strengthen the academia-industry interface. We must become think tanks in innovation communication policies and strategies and offer communication solutions to Governments and Industries.

What steps can bridge the gap between industry expectations and skills provided by media education institutions?

Undoubtedly, the interface has to be improved and further strengthened. Moreover, media education should be in sync with the best practices in the industry. We need to come out of our comfort zones and cocoons.

What achievements and plans do you have as President of the Global Media Education Council?

The Global Media Education Council was conceived as an India-driven academic platform with representation worldwide to showcase our strengths, achievements, and research in the communication sector. We have started with modest means and are quickly gaining acceptance from media educators in the Government and private sector. My plans include at least opening fully functional chapters in key global capitals and coming out with some quality benchmarks for our media education.

How can we address the dominance of Western culture in shaping global public opinion?

It's a global phenomenon and an outcome of centuries of colonialism. Decolonization and Indianization, wherein teaching and research practices are in sync with our harsh realities, need to be taken up on a war footing. We need to make communication relevant to the masses at large.

How can India's media ecosystem contribute to national improvement through government partnerships?

While it is the media's sacred duty to point out its failures and shortcomings to the Government, the media also needs to understand that today, we have a government that most of our people have elected. Therefore, our bounden duty is to support the Government's welfare schemes by creating awareness about them, pointing out their shortcomings, and suggesting improvements through feedback from ground zero. Media doesn't necessarily have to be anti-establishment always. We are not living in colonial times. We are equal stakeholders in the development process. We are journalists, and we should not behave like activists. That also doesn't mean we become PR executives for the Government. An enlightened and well-informed electorate is vital to a vibrant democracy, and we, as the Fourth Estate, have a pivotal role in ensuring the same.

Do you think there is a need for more media-focused institutions in India?

Three state universities (Bhopal, Jaipur, and Raipur) are already dedicated to journalism apart from a central deemed university. But apart from churning out hundreds of students yearly, are they contributing to national development through research, innovation, and ideas? I doubt so. We need institutions that can serve as communication think tanks not just for the Government but also for the private media sector as well as constitutional bodies such as the Press Council of India. We need a more comprehensive and powerful Media Council of India to replace the existing Press Council. We also need a body to regulate media education in India, on the lines of the National Medical Commission and Bar Council of India.

How can Indian media educators enhance their global recognition?

We need to develop substantive, in-depth, comprehensive research that would give a holistic view of media and related issues in the world's largest democracy. We cannot attain excellence by being copycats. We need to set the agenda, change the narrative, and take leadership of the developing countries. We need to set high standards in research and publications. We need to set new benchmarks. We need alternative global platforms like GMEC. India is a vibrant democracy, and we should reflect the spirit of being the world's largest democracy, become the voice of the democratic world, and pave the way for a New Global Information Order.

What are the key challenges facing media education in India today?

Absence of a regulatory framework, lack of good research, shortage of good faculty, paucity of training, very few quality research journals, absence of solid academic networks, lack of standardization, infrastructural issues, very few standard texts written by Indian authors and reflecting/documenting Indian ground realities.

How can media education institutions adapt to the rapidly changing media landscape?

Enhanced Industry interface, emphasis on quality research and publications, Teacher Training, availability of basic infrastructure, greater exposure both within and outside India, etc.

What initiatives can be taken to ensure inclusivity and diversity in media education?

Rural internships and Developmental Journalism must be mandatory for all courses. Similarly, rural internships have been compulsory for medical courses in government medical colleges. Media curricula need to be revised and upgraded. Anthropological studies in research and Community media must be mandatory. The diversity in our society and the country must be reflected in our student and faculty profiles.

How necessary is practical training and industry exposure in media education?

While the importance of practical training and industry exposure has been repeatedly emphasized, it is equally important to promote research, creativity, and linguistic skills. We are grooming journalists, communicators, and academicians, not technocrats. Practical training without theoretical understanding leads to trivia and superficiality in the media.

What role can technology play in enhancing media education?

Technology can be an enabler or facilitator, but content has to be the King. No media institution can afford to adopt technologies that are at par with the industry. Still, we can nurture creativity, language skills, and understanding of socioeconomic issues to provide future content creators for the industry and academia.

How do you envision the future of media education in India?

There are challenges, but the proliferation of media, the mushrooming of technology-enabled platforms, and the ever-burgeoning demand for content give us hope beyond conventional media. Media educators need to be farsighted and groom the next generation. They need to be in sync with the changes happening in the industry worldwide. We need to create multitaskers. The future of media education depends on how adaptable, innovative, and creative we media educators will be.