As we approach the start of a fresh academic year, lakhs of students have already begun mulling over which coaching class will give them an extra edge in entrance exams. But if you have zeroed in on a particular class based on tall claims made on their website or hoardings, beware. With the coaching season set to begin in February-March, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has pulled up several tuition centres for making misleading claims in their advertisements.

Cetking Education features in the list of coaching institutes hauled up. Pics/Swarali Purohit
Cetking was among the coaching institutes that changed their advertisements after getting a notification from ASCI. Pic/Swarali Purohit

Some institutes wrongly claimed that their students had secured top ranks, even displaying their photographs and scores prominently in the adverts. However, when approached by ASCI, they were unable to substantiate the claim. Others claimed they had teachers who went to Ivy League universities (read Harvard) or received major grants, like the Fulbright scholarship. Again, these claims were unsubstantiated.

Shockingly, even well known centres have resorted to such underhanded tricks to woo students. ASCI has now released a list of the offending institutes, including TIME Institute, Cetking Education, CLAT Possible and IMS Learning Resources, among others. Since the council is a self-regulatory body for the advertising sector, it cannot take any punitive action, but can only suggest changes.

Shweta Purandare, ASCI secretary general, said, “Inquiries are conducted following complaints by individuals and our observation of misleading adverts. The concerned advertisers or companies are given time to respond to the complaints raised, and if they are not able to establish their claims, they are declared to be giving misleading information. Most of the times, advertisers take back the claims by making required changes, else the complaints are forwarded to concerned authorities in the government.”

‘Merely technical points’
Among the institutes that changed their ads is Cetking, whose co-founder, Avneet Bhatia, said the ASCI had merely listed ‘technical’ errors which had been pointed out by a competitor.

“There are certain technical points on which objections were raised by a competitor from the market. But the issue has been resolved now and ASCI was informed about it subsequently,” said Bhatia.

Devjyoti Das, CEO of CLAT Possible, also clarified that the required changes had been made, and added, “The objection was about the profile of a specific teacher which said she holds a Fulbright scholarship. ASCI pointed that she had been nominated for it but did not pursue it. This is a very technical point. The fact she was offered such a scholarship explains the level of the professor. However, after ASCI pointed it out, we made the required change. But such technical points certainly do not directly impact students’ decisions.”

Student speak
Das may claim that such details in the adverts do not influence students, but when this reporter spoke to a coaching student at TIME Institute, she said, “There are so many advertisements for TIME. It is a known brand. So I decided to take admission here.”

She even referred one of her friends to the institute, but both said they were unaware of the false claims being made by the centre. “I am not aware of ASCI or its findings. I took admission to this class because of my friends; I had heard of class several times,” said the friend. Despite attempts to contact TIME, no one was available for comment.