HSEB code of conduct Issue of advertisement

2014-04-05

Dr. Mana Prasad Wagley

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Heavy advertisements in the print and electronic media have been a practice of plus-two colleges. A rough estimate of the expense of such advertisements last year was Rs. 500 million. A big uproar was raised linking such expenses as additions to the tuition fees to be paid by students through their parents’ pocket. There was no regulation controlling and/or monitoring such activities. In the course of time, HSEB realized this issue as genuine and incorporated this issue in its “Code of Conduct”. The HSEB has made a bar on advertisement of colleges not exceeding rupees five hundred thousand in the urban areas. And the impact of the code of conduct regarding advertisements has been positive. 
 
Colleges spending more than Rs.10 million in advertisements last year has now been scaled down to one to two million. In its Code No. 43, the HSEB has a rule for hoarding boards, and it warns of not placing such boards outside the college premises. However, one can still see such hoarding boards in many corners of the city. District Education Offices are made liable to punish or impose fines on those who violate the code. In Code No. 44, the HSEB details the advertisement regulation. There are four categories for advertisement expenses ranging from 50 thousand to five hundred thousand rupees.
 
Colleges in the VDCs can spend only 50 thousand per year for advertisement, whereas those in Kathmandu Valley can go up to a maximum of five hundred thousand. The rule for colleges in sub-metropolitan city and municipalities is a limit of three hundred thousand and one hundred and fifty thousand rupees respectively. 
 
However, there is a contradiction in Code 44 (ka) and (kha). Code 44 (ka) mentions Kathmandu Valley whereas (kha) mentions sub-metropolitan city, but there are sub-metropolitan cities within the valley too. Thus colleges residing within the valley and within the sub-metropolitan city do have a right to advertise to a maximum of five hundred thousand. However, the legal aspect of the code of conduct is still missing. The law practitioners and experts say that the code of conduct might be okay but charging fines and/or monetary punishments cannot be carried out simply based on the code of conduct.
 
No institution is provided with such authority in the law. This is another controversy about the provision of fine. But, there are provisions of monetary fine from 50 thousand to five hundred thousand rupees depending upon the excess expenditures made on advertisements. Spending 50 per cent extra on advertisements will result in a “warning” and a fine of five hundred thousand, and repeating the same next year may result in getting the affiliation revoked by HSEB. 
 
Now, the HSEB has remained active with its monitoring teams both in urban and rural areas. It seems that the HSEB is committed to implement the code of conduct regarding advertisement among others. The major question still remains: “Can HSEB itself punish the rule breakers in terms of monetary form?” This may be one of the reasons why more than two dozen colleges in the Kathmandu Valley have exceeded the advertisement costs mentioned in the code. The issue here is: “Should we make this rule as part of Education Act so that the legal authority can deal with it?” Otherwise, there is a possibility that the code of conduct will remain on paper only.
 
Another major issue regarding advertisement is equally important. For example, if a college with 40 students reduced its advertisement cost by more than 50 per cent compared to the previous year (let us assume that College A spent one million last year and the same college spent only five hundred thousand, the maximum ceiling, this year). This means the college saved half a million from advertisement.
 
Does that money go for the welfare of the students studying in that college?
 
Will it proportionately reduce the fee of the students? If justice is there, all forty students should get a discount or benefit of Rs. 12,500 this year from the college. Has this been the motto behind the intent? The answer is a big NO.
Then what is the use of making a code of conduct if the savings from advertisement directly goes to the pocket of the owners? Instead, most of the higher secondary schools (colleges) have raised their tuition fee by 25 per cent this year. Is not this sheer negligence on the part of the HSEB?
 
Can we consider this as a good conduct of the owners? If there is an intention to make the owners rich, what does this code of conduct do to the parents and their children? They may say the poor students get scholarships from HSEB. Let me cite an example, although the so-called scholarship is provided to the poor students, there is still a provision that the colleges can charge the annual fee to them. And, the annual fee is more than the annual tuition fee. Then what is the use of scholarship?
 
The scholarship holders last year did not get their admission cards until they had paid the annual fee. So, thinking from the side of the owners cannot create equity whether it is the scholarship or curtailment in advertisement. Thus, HSEB should be alert in each step of the provisions it is undertaking to make higher secondary education free of exploitation and bias. 
 
Dr. Wagley is an educationist