Should schools require their students to wear a school uniform?
Topic: School Uniform
Summary: Should schools require their students to wear a school uniform?
In some countries, e.g. Britain and many Caribbean states, it is common for school pupils to have to wear distinctive uniforms identifying them with a particular institution, especially to the end of compulsory education at 16. In others, e.g. France, the USA, it is rare for uniforms to be worn, although some private schools may retain them. In both situations the desirability of school uniforms remains controversial among students, parents and educationalists. As a result of this some schools have abandoned uniform at the same time as others have adopted it.
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Uniform suppresses individualism and treats students en masse rather than encouraging teachers to recognise their different characters and abilities, and students to accept responsibility for aspects of their own lives. Uniform was better suited to an age of rote learning and military-style discipline than to the more exploratory and creative values of modern education - values which are increasingly important to the wider economy. Many schools, indeed many countries, manage to maintain high school standards of discipline, community and academic performance without adopting uniform
Uniform acts as a social leveller, under which all students are equal in the eyes of the school and of each other. In institutions without uniform students are often competitive and worry endlessly about their appearance and the clothes they should wear. Pupils without expensive designer clothes and trainers may be singled out as social outcasts, or stigmatised as being from poor backgrounds. For these reasons many parents prefer uniforms as they save them money on buying clothes for school wear
cons Students always find ways to tease or bully others, regardless of what clothes are worn. Those who wish to be particularly fashionable will want to own the same number of outfits regardless of whether they are allowed to wear them to school or not, changing into them the minute that classes are over. Parents often find some uniform items, e.g. jackets, very expensive compared to the rest of their child’s wardrobe, and complain they can never be worn outside the school environment.
Uniform has practical benefits when students are outside the school building. Being readily identified with a particular institution may make students more aware of their behaviour while travelling to and from the school, leading them to act more considerately, e.g. to other passengers on buses or trains. On organised trips away from the school it is much easier for teachers to ensure they haven’t lost anyone and to monitor behaviour, than if students wore their own clothes and blended in with the crowds.
Uniform makes students very identifiable and emphasises the divisions between schools, making it very easy for bullying and fights to develop between students from rival institutions as they travel to and from school.
Uniform prepares students for life after education, when most will be expected to dress smartly and appropriately for work, adhering to a corporate dress code
The business world is increasingly relaxed about dress codes, making those schools that insist on uniform increasingly anachronistic. Adults who attended schools without uniform do not appear to struggle in the workplace.
Uniform makes it easy to check that every student maintains a smart appearance and is dressed appropriately for their classes. In schools where students are allowed to dress as they like, in practice a constant battle has to be fought by staff to ensure that what the students choose to wear is not inappropriate, e.g. because it is too revealing, features T-shirts with offensive slogans, would be dangerous while performing scientific experiments, etc.
Often it is uniform that is inappropriate, being too cold in winter or too hot in summer, largely because it is badly designed and cheaply-produced in small quantities for a captive market. Girls in particular complain at being forced to wear skirts even in the coldest months, when many would generally wear trousers from choice and some, e.g. Muslims, for cultural reasons. Students will always attempt to subvert any dress code, strict or lenient, requiring staff vigilance in any case.
This House would introduce school uniform
This House would create a stronger school ethos
This House believes successful education rests upon firm discipline