Posters are cropping up everywhere in German schools -- exotic holidays, pop albums, movies, jeans, Coca Cola, cosmetics.
Since Berlin's education authority changed its laws in March 1998 to allow advertising in schools, commercial messages have become a valuable source of revenue.
This year other German states, North Rhine Westfalia, Lower Saxony, Bremen and
Saxony-Anhalt have followed
Berlin's example. Typically these are the states which have made the largest cuts in school
School heads like the freedom to use the money as they please, unlike the strictly demarcated state fund.
"Advertising is a good source of income," says Ingrid Rossmann, head of a secondary in Treptow, Berlin, which displays ads for school trips and commercial language courses. "We welcome every extra pfennig we can get to renovate our grounds."
Other schools use advertising to fund computers, art materials, music, trips and textbooks.
Advertising is not permitted on external school walls or in classrooms but entrance halls, cafeterias and common rooms are popular sites.
The Netherlands was the first European country to allow
advertising in schools in 1994. Some 4,000 billboards have been erected in Dutch schools since then. Austria approved such advertising in late 1997.
German parents complain that with so many advertising messages being pushed at young
children, school should be a persuasion-free environment.
But there are restrictions. In Berlin where 150 schools now display billboards, advertising is restricted to one board per 100 pupils, to a maximum of eight per school. In primary schools it is one or two boards per school.
Advertising for alcohol, tobacco or other "harmful substances" is not allowed. Neither are political nor religious messages.
Andreas Otto of a private
marketing company which helps advertisers find spots in schools, says school poster campaigns are deliberately not as aggressive as on television.
"In most cases it is not product advertising but image-building."
Some parents and pupils have voted against advertising in their school.
Others fear the state will wash its hands of the responsibility to provide adequate funds if the
private sector picks up the tab.
But there is a limit to how much a school can earn. A
typical secondary school could raise a maximum of 10,000 DM (pound;3,300) a year.
However, as much as 50 per cent goes to the local authority's "equalisation fund" which provides extra resources for schools that do not have advertising.