ONCE upon a time media education was a Cinderella subject. But not now, Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, told 100 members of the Association for Media Education last weekend.
He said: "Whatever hesitations there may have been in the past, there is no doubt that official policy now attaches considerable importance to the study of the mass media. Media education has come of age."
A former journalist and founder of the West Highland Free Press, the minister said study of the media had a two aims - to refine critical responses to the products of the industry and to equip young people to become practitioners in activities which bring an estimated pound;50 billion in revenue to the UK economy.
"Media studies are not about teaching that the mass media are inherently harmful or a degraded form of culture," Mr Wilson told the AMES conference at Bell College in Hamilton. "Developing critical skills will enhance, not reduce, enjoyment of the products of the mass media."
Arrangements for media studies within the Higher Still programme reflected and reaffirmed the importance the Government attached to the subject.
The minister said that research at the beginning of the decade had shown that despite initiatives to increase media studies across the curriculum, secondary schools had made little progress in exploiting the opportunities. At present, therefore, "the picture is mixed".
Mr Wilson also referred to the "strongly held view in some quarters" that there should be a teaching qualification in media education, or perhaps an additional teaching qualification for serving teachers.
He would look carefully at this in the context of Higher Still, and of work being done by the General Teaching Council to establish the extent of the demand.