The report analysed 100 edtech adverts across television, print, digital video and static, and also surveyed about 490 parents and students
The ASCI report flagged the overemphasis on maths and science in the advertisements and said that many of them convey the message that failure was not an option
Some of the prime information sought by parents is about teaching style, qualifications of teachers, personal attention given to students, learning opportunities and price: Report
Many advertisements of edtech firms in the country make misleading claims and reinforce a narrow view of education, with too much focus on the marks scored, a report by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said.
The report, titled EdNext, was sponsored by BYJU’S and supported by Indian Edtech Consortium and Unacademy. It analysed 100 edtech adverts across television, print, digital video and static. Besides, about 490 parents and students in eight Indian cities – Delhi, Bengaluru, Indore, Kanpur, Patna, Kolhapur, Warangal and Bardhaman – were also surveyed for the report.
ASCI also conferred with industry stakeholders such as marketers, creators and experts from various life sciences – career counsellors, psychologists and education experts – for preparing the report.
“26% of ads make promises guaranteeing success in the form of improving marks, helping students become a topper, etc. Besides the fact that many of these claims are misleading, they also feed into a deeper issue,” the report said.
Some adverts portrayed exams as a war-like situation where students and their parents were shown stressing about exams and results. Such adverts conveyed the message that failure was not an option and that children’s entire future was dependent on scoring high marks in the exams, it added.
As per the report, nearly half of the analysed edtech adverts talked about helping students get high scores in exams and showed how former students topped in their exams after enrolling for an edtech course.
Meanwhile, 31 out of the 100 edtech adverts made superlative claims of being the ‘best’, ‘largest’ or using the most resources like the ‘best teachers’, ‘largest faculty’, ‘top educators’, ‘best study material’, ‘best tuitions’, among others.
Talking about representation of teachers in adverts, the report said that while 55 out of the 100 adverts showed a teacher, only 14 exhibited active participation of a teacher or displayed teacher-student interaction.
In addition, 33 adverts used celebrities such as film stars or sports people to endorse their brand products, the report said, and questioned the absence of personalities from academic fields.
“Attributes of celebrities, such as perseverance, were used as inspiration, though none of the ads featured known personalities from an academic field. In fact, celebrities who featured dominantly were popular film superstars who are considered academically poor or average,” it argued.
Expectations Of Parents
Seven in 10 surveyed parents said that edtech adverts made promises that were difficult to fulfil.
“Cheap pricing/discounts and refund-related information have poor credibility with parents, who are aware that such claims are usually entwined in a web of terms and conditions. Instead, parents seek clear information about the outcomes/improvements from using the brand,” it said.
According to the report, the amount of information displayed on edtech adverts impacts parents’ decisions. Some of the prime information sought by parents are teaching style (in online classes), qualifications of teachers, personal attention given to students, learning opportunities and price.
“The more informative an advertisement is, the more it is found to be convincing for the parents,” it said.
Besides, a vast majority of edtech adverts talked about maths or science subjects, while only about a fifth of them focused on other subjects. Parents from metro cities shared concerns about the overemphasis on maths and science. They also pointed out that extracurricular activities were not being featured in edtech ads.
“While these tropes of exam orientation, toppers showcasing, overemphasis on maths and science are not exclusive to edtech, it must be reiterated that these perpetuate some undesirable aspects of traditional education. The edtech companies, and notably, the visible nature of edtech communication, solidifies the traditional and somewhat regressive narrative of stressful education, instead of opening it up to a future-facing and progressive one of meaningful learning,” the report said.
The report also proposed a framework named ‘RAISE’ to promote edtech communication in the country. The proposed structure would allow industry stakeholders to evaluate ‘creative briefs’ (marketing content or ads) and realign them as per their expectations.
The report comes at a time when some concerns have been raised about the edtech startups and the practices followed by them. Last month, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) summoned edtech decacorn BYJU’S’ CEO Byju Raveendran over complaints about it allegedly luring parents and children into buying the company’s courses.
The NCPCR also alleged that BYJU’S was purchasing databases, including phone numbers of children and their parents, to force them to buy courses.
The edtech space has been one of the worst hit sectors due to the ongoing funding winter. This has resulted in shutdowns and layoffs in the sector. As per Inc42’s layoff tracker, edtech startups sacked over 7,800 employees in 2022 alone.