Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned private higher education institutes that they could be prosecuted if they are found to have exaggerated their credentials in advertising, according to a directive obtained Tuesday.
All publicity for private institutes must from now on be submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval before being advertised in the media, Hun Sen stated in the directive, dated Thursday.
“Any advertisements that are inappropriate and exaggerate the truth of [an institute’s] educational services and its advantages are strongly prohibited. Those abusers of the notice will be punished before the law,” Hun Sen warned.
Once advertisements have been submitted to the ministry, they must be processed within seven working days. If they need to be corrected or investigated further, that time frame can be extended to four weeks, Hun Sen said.
Ministry officials are required to contact institutes that advertise without permission, and if the advertising continues, they should be referred to the Ministry of Information, the directive states. The education ministry intended to begin monitoring the adverts of all institutes in 2003, but did not have enough staff to do so, said Pok Than, education ministry secretary of state.
The ministry was subsequently unable to return ads to various institutes on time, so it was decided that institutes could advertise without approval, but the ministry reserved the right to stop ads containing false information, he said.
“Schools want the students, so they don’t advertise truthfully,” he added.
Justin Pang, general manager at the English Language Training Institute, said he welcomed the directive.
“We have no problems with the censor,” he said, adding that some institutes are falsely claiming to have foreign affiliations to attract more students. “When they claimed they have foreign connections they can charge more money,” he said.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, said private universities tend to be more interested in making money than in education.
“They advertise to absorb students, not to promote quality,” he said.