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Daimler, Deutsche Post, BMW: Surreptitious advertising in the classroom


They use the financial shortage of schools to influence students: 20 out of 30 DAX companies offer teachers free teaching material. A study now shows how one-sided or incomplete this is.

How big is the trunk of a Smarts compared to a station wagon, and how many seats are there? How is washing in other countries, and what makes a good detergent? These questions are to answer students in the classroom. At least Daimler and Henkel hope so. The two corporations offer teachers extensive teaching material, placing advertising at the same time - and are therefore in line with the trend.

Twenty of the 30 DAX companies meanwhile supply schools with free teaching material, which fits in with the content and topic of their own company. Tim Engartner, Professor of Didactics of Social Sciences at the Goethe University Frankfurt, comes to this conclusion. He has studied for the Otto Brenner Foundation, as Dax companies try to help shape the lessons.

Children are a popular target group for companies. Chips and chocolate cream manufacturers sponsor sports days, insurance companies and banks organize stock market games, pharmaceutical companies distribute educational leaflets on genetic engineering. Specialized agencies are offering companies to create "brand-affair exercise books," blatantly pointing out how children can be tempted.

"Setting course for later career aspirations"

Above all, the companies pursued four goals in their commitment, says Engartner. "First and foremost, they want to influence the children's worldview and inspire them for the issues that are important to them, but they also want to recruit, enhance their image, and gain new customers."

The BMW Group press release on their "Tech4Kids" program for elementary school students quotes a plant manager as saying: "It's important to instil a sense of technology in children early on. "

About two-thirds of the teaching materials provided by the Dax companies were aimed at a direct advertising effect and were pedagogically very questionable, says Engartner.

  • For example, a school assignment devised by BMW consists of tracing the front of a car - including the company logo.
  • The German Stock Exchange has published a Pixie book on the subject of the "Marketplace of Animals"
  • The chemical company Bayer is a Wimmelbuch about his chemical park in which 25 times the company logo is displayed.

This is how corporations advertise in schools

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There is no supervisory authority. Unlike textbooks, which are rigorously tested, each company can offer its own teaching materials. Whether and how they are used is decided by the teachers alone. But some of them have to fight themselves - with marly equipment in the classroom, missing budgets for books and copies and non-specialist teaching.

"Especially subjects like politics and economics are often taught by teachers of other disciplines, so there is a high risk that the documents provided by the companies will go to class because of the lack of expertise," says Engartner.

Housing shortages or social inequality are left out as topics

In some cases it is difficult to see who is behind the teaching material. "Some companies have become more cautious when it comes to lobbying, so there is a new trend towards industry-wide mergers of companies, which, for example, jointly found a 'knowledge factory' and no longer explicitly appear as individual companies in the imprint."

And even if there is no direct advertising message in the teaching materials, the company alone influences the students by selecting topics, says Engartner. "Materials for social inequality or housing issues are not provided by a corporation." For example, the topic of energy is completely overrepresented.

In the immediate vicinity of their company headquarters, the Dax companies also sought direct access to the classrooms, Engartner has observed. Some sent experts to classroom topics as experts, providing expensive experiment boxes or complete chemistry labs.

"Many actually think it's good," Engartner is convinced. The result is still doubtful. "Only through presence in the classroom, companies gain in recognition and if Company A is allowed to present itself there, it would also have to allow this to Company B. But then lessons become a pure promotional event."

Engartners Conclusion: Ministries of Education and Culture would have to create a cross-border control office for the company's teaching material and subject it to the same strict scrutiny as textbooks. "And corporate logos do not even belong in classrooms."

Source: spiegel

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