OVERSEAS education courses offered in Hong Kong may be brought under tighter control by changing the definition of a ''school'' in the Education Ordinance. The Education and Manpower Branch is also considering tightening advertising standards for overseas tertiary institutions, as the current code of practice applies to broadcasting advertisements, but not print media. The changes are being considered in a bid to protect students from enrolling in substandard distance learning courses which face few controls under the Education Ordinance. Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower Iris Budge-Reid said the ordinance was not appropriate for regulating the operations of overseas tertiary institutions. It was designed mainly for monitoring non-tertiary education sector institutions in Hong Kong. In the Education Ordinance, ''school'' is defined as ''an institution, organisation or establishment which provides for 20 or more persons during any one day or eight or more persons at any one time''. Institutions defined as schools are required to register with the Education Department, which in turn monitors the fees they charge and the quality of the curriculum and teachers offered. Overseas distance learning programmes offered in Hong Kong are judged according to separate criteria. The branch is considering updating the legal definition of ''school'' to make it more appropriate to control the quality of overseas courses offered in the territory. Senior Education Officer (Registration) Chong Kwok-kit from the Education Department said: ''We could bring the locally conducted tuition for overseas courses like distance learning programmes under the control of the existing ordinance. ''But the point is, is it the appropriate vehicle to monitor these courses, as their requirements on the quality of teachers and curriculum are different from that of schools,'' he said. However, the Newport University of California, which offers a distance learning programme in Hong Kong, said current legislative constraints were too tight and although it had wanted to conduct more classes in the territory it had been unable to do so. The university's local office programme director, Peter Liao Sheung-kwan, agreed there should be another set of criteria for distance learning programme tuition in Hong Kong.