Fact and advertising need to be kept apart in teaching at school

Cooperation between schools and companies is currently a normal part of education. The question of how education is to remain impartial even when a teacher uses material produced by companies will be considered at a seminar organised by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority and its partners in cooperation.

Pupils confront advertising during their lessons at school when they look for information on the internet, and when they use teaching material produced by corporate sources. With schools facing a tight economic situation, teachers are happy to use high-quality material available free of charge that their pupils find interesting.

Material produced by companies nevertheless often has a commercial basis. For this reason teachers need to make sure that the material is not one-sided or biased. Messages that constitute advertising can be embedded inside factual information, and those messages are used by companies to establish a brand while laying the foundation for future customer relationships.

Pupils are susceptible to advertising messages because they do not recognise advertisements for what they are as easily as adults do. Media education offered by schools gives pupils skills to help them evaluate who is behind the information, and to take a critical view of advertising.

The Consumer Ombudsman has reacted to cases in which companies have marketed their services or products directly to schoolchildren in an inappropriate manner. The National Board of Education and the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (known as the Finnish Consumer Agency through the end of 2012) have also drafted guidelines for teachers on how commercial material can be used in teaching.

The limits of cooperation between schools and companies will be discussed at a seminar organised by the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority (KKV), the National Board of Education, the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Society on Media Education, and the School Cinema Association. The seminar, Using media at school – how to teach without commercial pressure , will take place on 7-8 May, 2013. The aim is to bring together the points of view of educators, officials, and companies on what cooperation looks like now and what it should be like in the future. The seminar is part of a series of six Nordic-Estonian events aimed at establishing a strategy document for consumer education.

Further Information:
Current issues in Consumer Law 2/2013 (Theme: children as consumers)