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ASCI report calls out edtech ads

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s “Pariksha Pe Charcha” (conversation on exams) on January 27, which will focus on issues such as exam-related stress, the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) has released a report on ads in the education technology (edtech) sector and their impact on students and parents.

It turns out that much like traditional education institutes, high scores in exams remain the primary benchmark of success in edtech ads, too – triggering the same pressures that students struggle with.

Also, maths and science dominate the ads, with an insignificant presence of other subjects. That’s not all. Within these two subjects, maths overtly sees boys being portrayed as the lead protagonists.

Overall, gender representation remains skewed in favour of boys in edtech ads. Only one in every four ads depicts both boys and girls as the protagonists.

For the role of the single protagonist, boys were chosen 1.8x times over girls, according to the report titled “EdNext”.

Earlier, ASCI’s half-yearly complaints report (April-September 2022) had found the education sector to be the biggest violator of its advertising code, though edtech formed a small, albeit significant, segment of the sector. The advertising self-regulator has often flagged problematic ads in this segment. In 2020, for instance, Mumbai-based edtech start-up WhiteHat Jr, which Byju’s owns, had withdrawn five of its ads after Asci red-flagged them.

“Education and health are of disproportionate importance and, hence, demand greater scrutiny,” says Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general, Asci. Online learning, she adds, is an infinitely leverageable model and has a lot of potential. “But in advertising, we see it slipping back into what traditional models seem to be doing.”

The report, for which 100 edtech ads were examined by a mix of stakeholders, including 490 parents and students across eight Indian cities, she adds, intends to create greater consciousness towards responsible advertising. Business Standard

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