Asci seeks feedback on updating its guidelines for education ads
Education ads are among the worst offenders when it comes to misleading claims. After keeping tabs on factual discrepancies, the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) is now updating its guidelines for the sector to curb the tendency of such ads to perpetrate negative habits and stereotypes.
The industry watchdog has invited public consultation starting on Monday until April 15, following which its updated guidelines will take effect. Inputs and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. All educational institutions, including universities, colleges, schools, coaching classes and edtech platforms will be expected to comply with the guidelines.
In a press release, Asci said that this year education has contributed to 27 per cent of the objectionable ads that the regulator has taken cognisance of. These include traditional education related (22 per cent) and edtech ads (5 per cent).
In January, Asci had released a report titled “EdNext” that called out edtech companies for their excessive focus on marks, math, science et al, while observing that 49 per cent of parents chose edtech platforms based on advertising.
One of the revised guidelines states that “an advertisement may show students compromising on sleep or meals in order to study as this normalises unhealthy habits which are detrimental to student health”. Other directives urge advertisers not to portray an average or poor scorer as unsuccessful, demotivated and unhappy or receiving less love and appreciation from parents, teachers and peers; not to create a false sense of urgency for missing out; and not suggest that certain subjects are associated with particular genders alone.
Manisha Kapoor, chief executive officer and secretary general, Asci, said: “The education sector impacts millions of students and parents. Unlike most other products, education cannot be tangibly measured. Hence, it is critical that, in addition to being truthful and compliant with Chapter I of the Asci Code, advertisers must consider any harm that can be caused through depictions or messages to young, impressionable minds.”
When asked about existing guidelines, she said that these had covered a lot of ground on misleading ads — such as whether a programme is officially recognised, whether it offers job guarantees, the affiliation of institutes, placement opportunities or competitive ranks of institutes. “What we are now doing is not about whether ads are factual or not but the way in which the relationship with learning has been shown, and whether that is harmful for children and parents,” she said.
Given the wide gamut of advertising on education across media, Kapoor agreed that it is a hyperlocal area. The advertising therefore is very fragmented, and it would require time to build awareness, she added.
Asci has an exhaustive mechanism to monitor advertising through digital and print surveillance. Kapoor cited that as an important tool to bring change. Secondly, there has to be an ongoing communication and dialogue between advertisers and the regulators besides other means of raising awareness, she stressed.