An entire generation from the hippie 70s grew up hearing Pink Floyd sing Teachers, leave those kids alone. Those who made the ad campaigns for the likes of Aakash Byju’s clearly missed that song. The teachers in these new edtech platforms will not spare the kids.
One would think a company like Aakash Byju’s will use their advertising to gloss over their image as capitalist setups that overwork students in the name of acing competitive exams.
Well, when it comes to Aakash Byju’s, leave wishful thinking where the sun don’t shine. And I don’t mean this as a profane statement. In the world of their latest ad, snippets of which are run during cricket matches, there’s no place for the sun to shine. Or any space for positivity or brightness or relaxation or happiness to permeate. It’s a world where students must do only one thing — study. And study to not learn or grow. They’re supposed to study to win.
Also read: Chakda ‘Xpress teaser ends up mocking Jhulan Goswami
We’ve been told that tough love is the love of the most superior kind. The unloving parent is actually the most doting planet in the galaxy; if you get that man who is completely closed up to fall for you, you’ll win a medallion of some kind; if the boss who doesn’t appreciate your work even to say ‘good good, you’re the employee of the month’… you know the drill, the tougher the love, the better it feels to finally get it.
This is the kind of ‘tough love’ act of teachers Aakash Byju’s romanticises in their ads. The characterisation of teachers is based on this very simple one-liner we heard growing up about disagreeable teachers: ‘right now you may hate her/him, but once you grow up, you’ll remember them fondly”. Oh, we do remember unnecessarily spiteful, pushy, arrogant teachers. Just not fondly.
The very first line, spoken by teachers in this one-minute advertisement breaks the pretense of any ‘support’ you might expect from your supposed mentors: “pehchaano mujhe, mai tumhara teacher hu. Tumhara dil behlana mera kaam nahi hai. Koi baat nahi agli baar aur mehnat karna… ye meethi meethi baatein karne wale bohot milenge (I am your teacher. It’s not my job to console you, or tell you, you can do hard work and win next time… you’ll find many others who’ll sweet talk with you)”
In morbid lighting, set to an annoying background music, these teachers tell you that they look after you but expect no mercy. Is this the environment a student encounters at Aakash Byju’s? Failure in this ‘learning environment’ seems to be unacceptable. You either ace one of the most competitive exams in the world, or don’t expect your teachers to sit with you and tell you that this isn’t the end of the world.
My my. Do they not remind you of the merciless drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 war drama Full metal Jacket, played by Ronald Lee Ermey? Just read these lines from the movie and the tough love of teachers in the Aakash Byju’s ad is sure to ring.
“If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon…but until that day you are the lowest form of life on earth,” shouts Gunnery Sergeant Hartman at his bunch of Marines under training.
Many teens are told that exams are the end of the world. And they unfortunately do end their worlds because of this constant messaging that there’s nothing for them to do in this life if they can’t crack NEETs or JEEs. And of this extremely draining mentally harassing approach to education that commodifies it and reduces it to a mere competition, edtechs like Aakash Byju’s are a very important part.
The ad continues… “mera kaam hai tumhe jitana. Iss baar, iss saal. Abhi. Issi waqt (My job is to ensure you win. This time, this year, right now)”.
The next line is probably the only line which doesn’t evoke coaching class PTSD in students: “hazaron sawal ho ya ek he sawal hazaron baar ho. Hum milkar sahi jawab dhundhenge (if you have thousands of questions, or the same question thousands of times. We’ll find the answer. Together.)”
Other than that, the ad constantly refers to students cracking competitive exams as a means to ‘win’ something. And I get it, competitive exams… competition… win or lose. I get it. But those in the business of imparting knowledge shouldn’t be selling education as a competition. That much of sanctity can be expected from a ‘school’. But I keep forgetting Aakash Byju’s feeds off of parents and students’ insecurities. A toxic learning environment is their cash cow.
Also read: Sahitya Akademi is a failed Nehruvian project. Now it has to survive in a ‘digital’ India
Learn from Bournvita
All in all, the ad looks like a horribly done copy of the classic Bournvita ad campaign Taiyari Jeet Ki, where parents can be seen aggressively training their kids in one sport or the other.
The difference between the two ads is the environment it creates — in the Bournvita ads, the children aren’t pitted against anyone but themselves.
There’s enough space for them to fall on their face, over and over and over again. And one day they succeed — which is also neither a guarantee nor an expectation.
All these traits, storylines are something Aakash Byju’s could’ve easily inculcated in their ads, given that I think Bournvita ads were 100 per cent their ‘inspiration’. But how could they show that they have any positive impact on a young teen’s mind or take a healthy approach towards education. Doing that would be a white lie. The only commendable thing they’ve done in this campaign is something the advertiser’s don’t often do — they told the truth.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)