Education Ministry Battles Ads in Schools

About 20 commercial entities, out of some 200 applicants, have received approval from an Education Ministry committee to sponsor activities within the public education system. The enterprises that received permission include the Israel Electric Corporation, the Dan bus company, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank.

The newspaper Maariv, in contrast, was denied permission. Kindergarten teachers were also told they could not use a kit distributed by the Israel Dairy Board.

Irit Livne, who chairs the ministry's approval committee, said that despite clear directives on the involvement of commercial companies in the school system, there are still problems with enforcement.

Livne's committee examines requests from both nonprofit agencies and commercial enterprises that seek to run activities in the schools, and thereby to advertise themselves to students, whether overtly or subtly. The committee also determines the conditions under which they can operate, based on provisions enacted two years ago at the initiative of MK Zevulun Orlev. The number of requests received by the committee has doubled over the past two years, Livne said.

According to the latest report that Livne submitted to the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, the entities that received Education Ministry approval include the Consumer Council, which conducts activities connected with Consumer Day; Dan, which distributes bus tickets to encourage use of public transportation; Teva, which produced educational materials about chemistry with the ministry's approval; Mizrahi-Tefahot, which operates a program through which students help citizens with special needs; and a Bank Hapoalim music program for elementary schools in Rishon Letzion. Some of the approved programs have been operating in the schools for years, but approval must be renewed on an annual basis.

According to the ministry's directives, the commercial sponsor's name can be mentioned, but this must be done in a modest manner and without a commercial logo or brand name. However, educational materials cannot feature the commercial sponsor's name.

The regulations also bar advertising directed at the students, publicity that encourages students to spend money, or publicity that gives a specific enterprise a commercial advantage among staff or students. The companies are also not allowed to have direct contact with students or to obtain students' contact information.

The distribution of gifts or coupons as raffle prizes is barred as well, as is the use of logos on equipment and clothing, such as T-shirts.

The programs that were denied approval included one from a major bank that would have taught the students about banking and the importance of savings. Livne said the proposed material contained professional jargon and featured colors associated with the bank. Also denied approval was a major dairy producer that proposed "tasting stands" at schools.

In an unusual move, the Education Ministry also rescinded Maariv's permit to help students produce school newspapers, though Yedioth Ahronoth's permit for a similar program remains in force. Both commercial papers sometimes integrated their own name into their school newspapers' logos.

According to various sources, Maariv's permit was revoked because its representatives in the schools had requested students' contact information and then used this information to contact their parents and offer them a subscription to Maariv. The sources added that this is the second time Maariv's permission to operate in the schools has been withdrawn due to such infractions.

In response, Maariv said: "There is no basis to the contention that the permit granted to Maariv was withdrawn. In accordance with ministry directives, Maariv does not conduct marketing in schools, and the marketing field is completely separate from the field of producing school newspapers."

In another case, the ministry barred kindergarten teachers from using a kit distributed by the Dairy Board that included suggested activities such as "dairy bingo," making decorated sandwiches and quizzes. Livne said "the program had to receive professional approval from the ministry, but the preschool division did not give its educational aspects a favorable review. There was also concern about unbalanced preference for dairy consumption. Yet the Dairy Board did not wait for approval, and sent the kits to the kindergartens."

On orders from the ministry, the Dairy Board is no longer distributing the kit to kindergartens at its own initiative, but schools that want it can still receive it upon request.

The Dairy Board said in response: "For the past nine months, we have worked to obtain permission from the Education Ministry for a kit that has already received Health Ministry approval. To our regret, we have not yet received a reply. In the interim, the kit has been distributed in the ultra-Orthodox sector, where no approval is required, and there, it has met with success. The kit does not contain any kind of advertising, only messages about [leading] a healthy lifestyle."