In a bid to check on the harmful psychological impact of education-related advertising on students and parents, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is revising guidelines, stressing that such entities cannot create a false sense of urgency or harp on stereotypes in their ads. The self-regulatory industry body has sought stakeholders’ views, and once finalised, the guidelines will be applicable to universities, colleges, schools, coaching classes, and ed-tech platforms, among others.
ASCI’s revised draft ad guidelines for the education sector state that an ad must not create “a false sense of urgency or fear of missing out” that can accentuate parental or student anxieties. It also recommends that an ad must not normalise unhealthy habits that are detrimental to a student’s health, such as skipping meals or sleep.
“An advertisement must not portray an average or poor scorer as an unsuccessful student or a failure, or show him/her/them as demotivated, depressed, or unhappy, or receiving less love or appreciation from parents, teachers, or peers,” the draft guidelines added. In terms of gender portrayals in ads, it also recommends that ads not suggest some subjects are only associated with particular genders.
This comes at a time when the education sector has emerged as one of the top violative sectors in terms of misleading ads. In FY 23, nearly 27 per cent of the objectionable ads processed by ASCI were related to this sector. Last year, the Consumer Affairs Ministry also warned edtech companies against misleading ads.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, told businessline, “Unlike most other products, education cannot be tangibly measured. So these revised guidelines aim to ensure that education-related ads do not undermine the well-being of students. They also continue to require educational entities to substantiate any claims with relevant evidence.”
The drafts reiterate earlier outlined guidelines that require educational entities to substantiate their claims, such as recognition of their degrees and comparative ranks, while displaying real visuals of infrastructure. They also cannot make claims in numerical values such as 100 per cent job placement and must give disclaimers stating “past record is no guarantee of future prospects.”
The revised guidelines seek to ensure that students are neither stereotyped based on their gender or appearance nor are those who score low, portrayed as unsuccessful or failures. These updated guidelines will go a long way in ensuring that emerging fields such as EdTech can be harnessed as forces of good,” she added.
Stakeholders can submit their views to ASCI till April 14.