Teachers pave the way for critical information engagement in North Macedonian schools

Teachers pave the way for critical information engagement in North Macedonian schools

Jacob Jaffe


Man holding a microphone as he conducts training

North Macedonia’s information space is polluted with mis- and disinformation, and nearly half the population has little to no trust in the media. Though the country has taken serious steps to promote media and information literacy, formal education has not yet consistently addressed the critical-thinking skills needed for young people to discern credible information from manipulative content. While current efforts lack the coordination needed for sustainable, systems-level impact, the YouThink program works with Macedonian educators to help them shape an information ecosystem that informs and engages rather than divides and polarizes.

Funded by USAID, YouThink partners with local institutions—including the Ministry of Education and Sciences and the Bureau for Development of Education —to reform the way in which the Macedonian education sector equips its teachers and students to navigate today’s information landscape. This unique alliance of local expertise and government support is meeting this challenge head-on through training for a vanguard group of primary school teachers who will set real, sector-wide change in motion. Between August and September 2022, YouThink’s teacher trainers went on to train 2,785 second- and fifth-grade teachers through 113 workshops across the country in preparation for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Teachers develop resilience to disinformation and learn to discern between reliable information and manipulative content

YouThink began by organizing a two-part training series between May and August 2022 for 105 teachers. They gained knowledge on how to engage with media and information through emotional regulation, cognitive reflection, critical and analytic thinking, and various other skills for discernment as part of a dynamic workshop rooted in IREX’s Learn to Discern approach.

They then learned how to help their fellow teachers integrate media literacy and critical information engagement skills and concepts into classrooms using student-centered and tech-forward approaches.

Having equipped themselves with critical information engagement skills and an understanding of core subjects such as journalism standards, media ownership, recognizing bias, algorithms, and more, these "teacher trainers” play a key role in laying the foundation for ongoing work in this area. They also represent the diversity of North Macedonia, ranging in ages from 30 to 65, coming from 17 cities across all eight of the country’s regions, and representing Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, and Turkish languages of instruction.

I am now more informed about the use, research, protection, and how to obtain objective information.

- Survey response from a participating teacher trainer

Teachers introduce media literacy into Macedonian schools

YouThink’s relationship with the Ministry of Education and Sciences and the Bureau for Development of Education allows the program to alignWomen stand in line to write on a board at a training event its teacher training activities with existing plans to formalize media literacy at specific grade levels. At a time when the country is rolling out revised curricula across education levels, such close coordination of nationwide teacher training presents a rare opportunity to implement changes that “stick,” outlasting the five-year YouThink program and informing similar changes at other levels of education.

YouThink’s impact evaluation showed encouraging results:

  • 87% of respondents agreed they felt prepared to equip their students with skills needed to resist manipulative information.
  • Teachers demonstrated an increase of 37% in confidence in their knowledge of media literacy and an increase of 29% in their ability to recognize disinformation.

The response from teachers has been positive and enthusiastic. Dijana Sadiku-Ramadani, a Bureau for Development of Education adviser, observed that teachers are “starting to talk about these topics [media literacy and critical thinking] in schools; we will be able to see the effects on students very soon.”

From all the sessions, I learned something new that I will pass on to my colleagues, students and relatives.

- Survey response from a participating teacher trainer

As such, this first phase of engagement with North Macedonia’s teachers is far more than just another training exercise. It represents the first step in a series of activities for integrating critical information engagement skills and media literacy competencies not only in the country’s primary schools, but also its secondary schools and higher education institutions, including pre- and in-service teacher training institutions and journalism schools.


USAID’s project on media literacy YouThink is implemented by IREX together with the Macedonian Institute for Media, the Institute of Communication Studies and the Youth Educational Forum. YouThink activities are made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).