From visual education to 21st century literacy: an analysis of the Ministry of Education's post-war film production experiment and its relevance to recent film education strategies.
PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
In 1943 the Ministry of Education took the decision to sponsor the production of an experimental programme of nonfiction films specifically to be used as ‘instructional’ teaching aids in the secondary classroom. The intervention was a development of pre-war efforts on the part of a number of organisations from the teaching and cultural sectors to realise the value of ‘educational’ film, in response to recognition of the medium’s social and cultural influence. This historical example demonstrates that government recognition of film as an educational resource has been achieved in the past. However, in 2012, the British Film Institute (BFI) launched a new education plan, at the centre of which was the aim to advocate the value of film education to Government (British Film Institute, 2012c). This aim had been the focus of film education initiatives in the previous decade without resolution, for example in the national strategy Film: 21st Century Literacy (UK Film Council, 2009). My research analyses the Ministry of Education’s production experiment in order to discover whether the findings can inform current film education strategies and offer an insight into why the struggle for government recognition of film education still remains.
This research combines film theory, archival research and education histories in order to contextualise the films within the particular historical moment of their production. I apply a pragmatic approach to the postmodern and poststructural theories of for example, Nichols (1991), Plantinga (1997), Renov (1993) and Winston (1995) in my textual analysis of the 16 films, sourced from the British Film Institute National Archive. The analysis of form and style informs my discussion of concepts of realism, ‘objectivity’ and ‘truth’ in relation to the films and the social and political ideologies conveyed through the texts. I also analyse contemporary documentation sourced from The National Archives in order to identify the objectives, the pedagogical rationale and the ideological project motivating the Ministry’s experiment as a whole and evaluate its outcomes.
I argue that the methodology of the Ministry of Education experiment was flawed so that no definitive conclusions were drawn regarding the educational ‘value’ of film. Furthermore, the ‘experiment’ was turned to political purpose so that the ideological project informing and conveyed through the filmic discourse actually worked to impose the social stratification inherent within the post-war tripartite education system. I also argue that, due in part to technological advances which have removed the need for state sponsorship of educational film production, government recognition is now unnecessary, and carries the risk of ideological and political incentives overcoming the pedagogical objectives of ‘21st century literacy’. I make the recommendation that film education initiatives should exist outside of political agendas and instead build links with teacher training institutions in order to ensure the driving force behind its practical application is pedagogical rather than political
Thesis (University of Nottingham only)
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