The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released revised draft guidelines for the education sector, highlighting the need for advertisements to avoid messaging that can cause physical or mental harm to school students and exploit their vulnerability.
When it comes to advertising, education has been among the most violative sectors in recent years, said ASCI in its Annual Complaints Report 2022-23.
Classical education ranked second among the top violative categories, accounting for 13.8 per cent of total ads that did not follow ASCI's guidelines, it added.
While ASCI's existing education guidelines require educational entities to substantiate any claims they make in their advertisements with relevant evidence, this latest update ensures that advertisers also keep the students' mental and physical well-being in mind, the report said.
The amendments state that advertisements by educational institutions, such as universities, colleges, and schools, coaching classes, EdTech platforms, and others that provide education and training programmes, should not stereotype or portray students based on their gender or appearance.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI, said: "In addition to ads not being misleading, the updated guidelines also provide for the physical and mental well-being of students, particularly school students."
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"While fierce pressure in education is a reality, advertising must not perpetuate this problem. normalise it or exploit student and parental vulnerability. Based on our Ed-Next study, such issues were identified, and post extensive consultation with different stakeholders, we are now issuing the updated guidelines," he added.
ASCI's new draft guidelines
In addition to adhering to the general rules of ASCI's Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising and the existing guidelines for the education sector, advertisements for educational institutions, programmes, and platforms must now comply with the following additional guidelines:
- An advertisement may not show school students compromising on sleep or meals to study as this normalises unhealthy habits which are detrimental to student health.
- While an advertisement may show disappointment with low scores, it 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.
- An advertisement must not create a false sense of urgency or fear of missing out, which could accentuate anxieties among school students or their parents.\
- While an advertisement may feature students of any gender, the advertisement must not suggest that certain subjects are associated with particular genders alone. Advertisements must also not suggest that students with high scores are always associated with stereotypical characteristics such as wearing thick glasses. This does not prevent advertisements from depicting such students so long as they do not suggest that only these students are successful.
Responding to the new guidelines, Rohit Kumar Singh, secretary, ministry of consumer affairs, said, "The ASCI guidelines address the various issues that plague the sector and we hope that the industry will follow these in letter and spirit. I would like to reiterate that misleading ads are also a violation of the Consumer Protection Act and all necessary steps will be taken to keep our citizens safe."