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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Edtech should raise the bar for education advertising

Edtech should raise the bar for education advertising

Edtech sector advertisers can transform the education narrative with progressive messages

While the opportunity is vast, it remains to be seen if the edtech industry will seize its chance to transform the narrative of education through messaging that is progressive and meaningfulPremium
While the opportunity is vast, it remains to be seen if the edtech industry will seize its chance to transform the narrative of education through messaging that is progressive and meaningful

Call it an ongoing metamorphosis or an impending revolution, but the fact is that this is an exciting time for the edtech industry. Emerging from a pandemic that gave it the momentum it needed and placed it well to tap vast opportunities ahead, edtech has been embraced by parents and students. While post-pandemic corrections may have dampened sentiment, there is no doubt that its long-term potential is high and it offers solutions that parents are looking for.

Edtech solutions plug a long-existing need gap where the focus must be on conceptual clarity over rote learning. Using data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence, edtech companies are creating modules that engage students through ‘gamification’ and other tech-enabled methods. They also improve access to high-quality education for students in remote locations, a challenge that is particularly difficult to meet with traditional chalk-and-talk methods. The widespread acceptance of edtech, however, comes with expectations of responsibility, especially in the context of communication sent out to young students and their parents. EdNext, a comprehensive report by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on edtech-sector advertising and its impact on students and parents, takes into account both positive aspects and areas of concern for different stakeholders. It shows a roadmap for prudent ads. The way forward is to steer messaging away from tropes such as exam-centric learning, showcasing toppers and a relentless focus on maths and science. The report also highlights concerns of parents and students about normalizing academic and performance pressure on children. Audiences are also put off by pressure tactics evident in these ads, some of which create a fear of missing out or a false sense of scarcity that exploits consumer vulnerabilities. What stakeholders are asking for instead is a more mindful approach to keeping depictions positive and realistic, making edtech an attractive and aspirational milestone in a student’s journey of academic and career success.

The report highlights several opportunities for progressive edtech advertising, key among which is the importance of showing learning as a joyful process rather than a stressful one. It also calls for the development of new markers of success and progress other than marks and ranks, thereby reducing the pressure on every child to be a topper. While touting the advantage of reaching students in remote locations, brands should remember to also showcase a diverse set of students and their needs. Edtech is in a distinctive position to offer solutions adapted to students’ unique needs and that message must reach students struggling with a one-size-fits-all approach to learning.

In keeping with the world’s changing demands, edtech can promote subjects and skills that will be beneficial in the future, broadening mindsets beyond the ‘safe’ choice of maths and science. The promise of progressive learning methods and broader concepts of success and careers are well aligned with today’s family aspirations.

Stakeholders also emphasized a need to show inspirational role models from various fields, as opposed to popular celebrities who usually have little connection with the programmes they endorse. For many students struggling with less than favourable circumstances, sharing real-life stories where the brand made a positive impact would make it more relatable and help students gain more confidence. Another important recommendation was for brands to provide comprehensive information on courses (including costs, methodologies and clarity on learning outcomes), enabling parents and students to make easy and informed decisions. The report highlights how parents are wary of claims involving big discounts, fee refunds or cheap subscription rates, and felt these gimmicks lower the credibility of brands making them. Parents would also like to see teachers getting due credit in ads, unlike the current narrative in which they are often shown in background roles at best.

A lot of common harmful tropes in edtech advertising can be checked at an early stage in the creative process and the EdNext report provides creators with a useful tool to do just that. Curated from an understanding of the desires and expectations of stakeholders, a ‘RAISE framework’ would help creators evaluate creative briefs by a detailed checklist and develop communication that depicts students in a relatable and inclusive manner and projects learning as an enriching, approachable and joyful experience.

The world is looking at the Indian edtech sector as a high-growth area and brands will be keen to build on the business potential. Despite tremendous progress in the overall education sector, its basic construct remains narrow, with an orientation towards marks and exams, limited access and unreal competition. The edtech industry operates within this context and naturally creates solutions to ensure a child’s success in the existing education scenario. However, edtech companies have an opportunity to break through such limitations with a progressive and future-oriented narrative and strengthen their position as engines of transformation. Of course, it is not incumbent on the sector to take a leadership stance, but given that the advantages of the sector are well aligned with an aspirational idea of parenting, it emerges as a high-potential opportunity for brands.

While the opportunity is vast, it remains to be seen if the edtech industry will seize its chance to transform the narrative of education through messaging that is progressive and meaningful.

Manisha Kapoor is chief executive officer and secretary general of The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). 

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Published: 27 Mar 2023, 11:31 PM IST
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