School is out for summer but many parents are busy buying school uniforms in preparation for next term. School uniforms have long been a subject of controversy. Around the world, they are not always required, with school uniforms having varying rules, expectations and styles across different countries. From Australia and China, all the way to Sweden and Argentina, the benefits of school uniforms are that they provide students with a sense of belonging and pride, but they also come with dissension. Writer Laura Driver who works with private school LVS Ascot takes a look at the great school uniforms debate.
School Uniform Benefits:
School uniforms are a huge socio-economic equaliser, as in a school, children come from all sorts of backgrounds and wearing school uniforms makes it harder to gauge a child’s social status. Wearing the uniforms don’t completely eradicate social differences, as this can be conveyed by a child’s accent and dialect for example, but school uniforms help to cultivate a sense of equality, as they are all in the same boat being at school.
It’s hard to pick on somebody for what they are wearing when you are wearing the same clothes. School uniforms help to keep the focus on learning, rather than on social status as this becomes more obvious when not wearing school uniforms. Social differences can create social hierarchies in schools, which can unfortunately trigger bullying and cyberbullying.
The uniforms stop children from having to worry about what to wear each day and they help students take less time in mornings to get ready; depending on which country you are from, the type of school you attend and a school’s particular uniform policy, you generally wear the same uniform up until the age of 16. This means that children only really wear their normal clothes at weekends, leading to less financial pressure on parents on buying new outfits on a regular basis. New school uniform designs are made to be highly durable and of an excellent quality to ‘be put through the ringer’, and so they last longer, leading to further savings on clothing for parents.
Enforcement of wearing school uniforms are a strong sign that a school means business and they also make students safer. If an intruder was to enter a school, they will be spotted swiftly as they won’t be in school uniform; conversely if a school doesn’t have a uniform policy and an intruder entered the school, they would be a lot harder to spot and blending in with the crowd, as everybody would be wearing normal clothes.
There’s also evidence that school uniforms improve student behaviour. Discipline and school attendance rates are improved, alongside academic gains. School uniforms help to foster a sense of a learning environment and reinforce that they are in school to learn. On the flip side of the coin, some have the opinion that students should earn the right to wear a uniform. This is because uniforms are smart and come with pride and a sense of belonging, and with this view – not wearing school uniform implies that they aren’t respectful and aren’t a real part of the ‘organisation.’
School Uniform Disadvantages:
Whilst there are benefits of school uniforms, they however, come with controversy, especially in the UK. British school uniforms have a very strict uniform policy, which has led to protests by UK students (such as boys bending gender norms and turning up to school wearing skirts). In the UK, students are often forced to wear blazers in 30 degree heat, with school uniforms having to be purchased from the uniform store and shops that schools endorse, whilst not considering that parents may not be able to afford uniform that those particular shops.
Depending on each individual school policy, the uniform has to be the exact brand, length, width and can’t be too tight or too baggy – otherwise disciplinary action is taken against students and they are put into isolation. Harsh or not? In addition to this, being restricted to one or two shops that schools endorse, means that finding a uniform that actually fits you, can be a struggle.
Some view school uniforms as part of a restricting draconian approach that hinders you from expressing individuality and style, even going as far as being detrimental to adult development. This can lead to students resenting the administration. The individuality of the entire student population at schools are reduced, and there is the argument of countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Denmark having no school uniforms, and their students behave better than UK students – making the argument that school uniforms improve student behaviour null and void.
State schools (or even ‘public’ schools) are delivered by the government to provide free education for all, at no cost to parents and some feel that school uniforms undermine the ‘free education’ proviso, as parents have to shell out for the uniforms.
School uniforms also don’t easily accommodate cultural differences, as it’s not possible for a single uniform design to accommodate students from all cultures and religions. How would a student from Pakistan wear their shalwar kameez or jilbab (cultural clothing) with their school uniform?
School uniforms come with clear benefits, such as being a strong socio-economic equaliser that cultivates equality, improves student behaviour and making them safer. However, you can’t ignore that they stop students from expressing individuality and parents have to continually shell out money until the end of their child’s school education and that’s without mentioning the harsh disciplinary action enforced when the uniform doesn’t meet the school’s uniform policy.
What do you think? Are you for or against school uniforms?