Teach children about fake news to stop them becoming extremists, OECD says

Children must be taught about fake news in schools to stop them from turning to extremism, a major international think-tank has said.

Under new plans unveiled on Saturday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will add a new category to its global tests called “global competency”, which will assess youngsters on how well they can think critically about information diseminated on social media, and detect dubious claims.

The shake-up to the OECD’s global test is aimed at preventing students from being brainwashed into believing, for example, that they should travel to Syria to fight for the so-called Islamic State.

The move, due to be announced this weekend at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, is significant because governments around the world often use these test results to inform policy.

Distinguishing what is true from what is not true is a critical skill today
Andreas Schleicher, OECD
Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, suggested that social media creates an “echo-chamber” in which users only hear from viewpoints similar to their own. He argued that schools have a role to play in making sure that young people have a chance to debate different views and opinions.

“Social media is designed to create an echo chamber. We are likely to talk with people who are like us. Who think similarly to us. And that’s precisely, almost the antithesis, to global competency.”

One example, he said, is young people from Europe going to fight for Islamic State, turning “the multi-religious, multi-ethnic powerhouses of the Middle East back to a kind of mono-culture”.

“That’s really I think an outcome of the thinking that there is only one truth and there’s only one way to live.

“I think that social media can reinforce that. The algorithms under-pinning them tend to relate people to people who are similar, rather than creating spaces for people to discuss debate and find common ground.”

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