It is admission season for higher secondary schools and colleges. It is also one of the best seasons for media in terms of revenue from educational advertisements.
But the prime minister´s office (PMO) has become concerned over the cut-throat competition among higher secondary schools -- popularly known as +2s -- and colleges to attract SLC graduates through advertisements in major media outlets.
The PMO on Wednesday directed the Ministry of Education in writing to get the publishing and broadcast of education-related commercials stopped, arguing that the students will ultimately have to bear the advertising costs.
In a letter addressed to the education secretary, the PMO has also directed the ministry to set standards for advertisements, within the ambit of existing laws, and keep it informed of any developments in this regard.
This is the second letter in two years that the PMO has written to the education ministry, regarding uncontrolled advertisements by schools and colleges. In 2010, it had written a similar letter to check the glut of advertisements from educational institutions. The PMO said little effort was made to implement the directive and expressed displeasure over the matter.
Promoters of higher secondary schools said they also are concerned over excessive advertisements by higher secondary schools and colleges, and welcomed the PMO´s move.
"It´s too much. We are also worried over the growing trend of advertisements. We had even handed a memorandum to the Higher Secondary Board some 10 days ago to set standards for the advertisements. But our concerns were not heeded," said Umesh Shrestha, president of the Higher Secondary School Association, Nepal (HISAN), adding, "The PMO move is welcome."
According to Shrestha, the newer colleges have been found spending up to four million rupees each on advertisements.
"We also demand that there should be healthy competition. We want the auhorities concerned to set a code of conduct for advertisers," Shrestha said about HISAN´s position on educational advertisements.
But the advertising agencies have reservations over the PMO´s move.
"The PMO does not understand the importance of educational advertisements. They enable students to take informed decisions on where they should study," said Raj Kumar Bhattarai, president of the Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN), expressing dismay over the PMO´s directive to the education ministry.
According to Bhattarai, education-related advertisements account for some eight percent of the total annual advertising revenue volume of Rs 4.25 billion.
In the same letter, which is in Republica´s possession, the PMO has also expressed concern over the higher admission fees charged by higher secondary schools and colleges. It said that schools have been found charging students various fees -- fees for construction of school buildings, libraries, laboratory and computers -- and asked the education ministry to make sure such fees are not imposed.
Similarly, the PMO has also directed the ministry to see that schools permit students to buy their books and uniforms from shops other than the ones they themselves recommend. The PMO has accused +2s and colleges of forcing students to buy books and uniforms from specific shops and at higher prices.
(News Source: Republica National Daily: News by Kiran Chapagain, news published in June 28)