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Communication Education in ASEAN

Ang Peng Hwa and Sankaran Ramanathan (2000). "Communication Education in ASEAN." Singapore: Asian Media Information and Communication Centre. 366 pages. ISBN 9971-905-79-05 [paperback].

Reviewed by Dr. Ali Parandeh, Information Technology Consultant, Malaga, Spain.

Why do we educate, how do we educate, and what is the desired end product of such education? These questions are prominent at all levels and subjects of the education system. While the goal is the same, the answer is not always as simple. What can be agreed upon is that most professional practices should be accompanied by some sort of a formal education. In the ever-changing media environment and the rapid advance of information technology, there seems to be an ever-increasing need for a formal communications education program. While the media sector has been slow and late to enter the educational sector in the ASEAN countries, it seems to have been welcomed by most governments, professionals, and academics. However, there still remains some divergence about what the goal of communication education should be.

The advance of information technology and the Internet has added to the information explosion that started with the birth of the personal computer, satellite TV, and the Internet. Overall, in today's society there is more information that one can easily read at leisure or can feel satisfied that they have learned all they need to know about a particular subject. The use of these technologies in our life is almost inevitable, but our limited time only allows us to cover a tiny amount of the available data.

The increasing volume of information is pushing the media sector to be more specific, and the use of technology is one way of getting there. However, lack of IT qualified and trained teachers is a problem facing most developing countries, and this gap is increased by the lack of up-to-date textbooks and reading materials in their respective languages.

"Communication Education in ASEAN" is a factual book about the current state, needs, development, and the future opportunities of communication education in the nine ASEAN countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). Each chapter is dedicated to a single country, starting with a preview of some statistical data about the country, followed by the details on past and present communication education. The second part of each chapter is the results of a survey carried out in every country, providing a good basis of comparison between these countries.

The bulk of the survey consists of the results obtained from different points of views on what a degree program on communication and media should consist of. The three divergent views are from academics, governments, and media professionals. While the government's interest is to provide a uniform education throughout the country, the academics have concentrated on educating the students for entry-level jobs, and the communications profession at large requires the students to have a good understanding of media in society, a good command of the national language, and accuracy in reporting.

Just like any other profession, communication requires the practitioners to master a specific body of knowledge and skills, while abiding to a professional code of ethics and conduct in order to provide a public service. I would have preferred a longer introduction, covering the different courses and material taught for communications education and of course the methods of the course teaching, i.e. the practical courses and the various IT sources used. However, the book jumps from a very short introduction to detailed survey results country by country, which is yet harder to compare since the various chapters are in different formats. Hence I could not conclude easily what were the strong and weak points of each ASEAN country's communications education.

Given the difficulty in being able to make such comparisons, the book could have benefited from a conclusion chapter which in turn would have been a good reference for other countries to use as an example method for their university courses on communications education. The book "Information Highways in ASEAN," also published by Amic [reviewed in the TBS Spring 2001 issue] is probably a good companion to this book, providing more statistical data, in particular about the countries and their infrastructure. Should there have been a comprehensive conclusion chapter covering more than future proposals, I might have seen greater use for this book, other than use by those involved in the communications education field.

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