In today’s society, our clothing choices have become a significant factor in how we are perceived by those around us. Many prestigious and modern schools advocate for elegant attire, providing students with a platform to be judged based on their clothing. Despite this, the concept of wearing the same dress code every day is often met with disdain from students, who see it as dull and unoriginal, making them indistinguishable from their peers.
While most students share this sentiment, there are some who appreciate the true value of wearing uniforms to school. By donning a uniform, they are able to present themselves as equals among their peers, alleviating the stress and pressure to compete with the fashion standards set by their more affluent classmates. For these students, wearing a uniform is an opportunity to truly embody the ideals of equality and camaraderie.
The topic of school uniforms has been the subject of ongoing debate worldwide. Supporters view uniforms as a symbol of equality and discipline, while critics argue that they stifle creativity, freedom, and self-identity. To shed light on this issue, it is necessary to examine the arguments for and against uniform dress codes in schools, which is seen as a stepping stone towards a Uniform Civil Code, a key priority of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
What are the Pros of School Uniforms?
School uniforms have been a topic of debate for a long time. While some argue that it restricts students’ freedom and creativity, many believe that it brings several advantages. Firstly, school uniforms promote equality by disregarding fashion and appearances as a criteria for judgment, which can reduce bullying and discrimination based on economic status. Secondly, it saves parents money as uniforms are much cheaper than branded clothing. Thirdly, it instills discipline and a sense of belongingness towards the educational institution. Additionally, school uniforms make it easier for students to get ready in the morning and save time for school administration by eliminating the need for dress code policies.
1. Focus on ‘Expression’ instead of ‘Impression’
According to Stacy Fervor, “I remember there were days when I would sleep in my uniform to save time in the morning. It didn’t matter because I didn’t have to impress anyone.” During the tender phase of their lives, it is important to instil self-confidence in students so that they can focus on expressing their ideas and thoughts, rather than impressing others. School uniforms play a significant role in this regard, relieving students of the pressure to constantly worry about their appearance and social status. Uniforms also prevent impoverished students from experiencing low self-esteem, as everyone is on an equal footing.
Furthermore, having a common dress code allows students to express and define themselves based on their academic and co-curricular achievements, regardless of their background. It also prevents schools from using fashion as a means of defining creativity. Additionally, students today have an overabundance of clothing options, which can be time-consuming and stressful when deciding what to wear. Having a single uniform to wear to school saves time and eliminates unnecessary decision-making.
2. Promotion of ‘Equality’ in students
Branded clothing is often viewed as a symbol of status around the world, but this is not the case in schools. One of the most important roles of school uniforms is to promote a sense of equality among students. Uniforms emphasise the idea that students should be judged based on their creativity, talent, and capabilities, rather than their fashion choices or appearances. Additionally, uniforms help to prevent bullying and discrimination against students from low-income families by their wealthier peers.
3. Less burden on the Parents
Parents often spend significant amounts of money on branded clothing for their children in order to prevent them from feeling inferior in school. However, this can be a heavy burden for many families. While every parent wants their children to have a carefree childhood, providing the best for them can be financially challenging. Many parents make sacrifices in their own lives to ensure their children have access to education, making it even more difficult to afford trendy outfits for their kids. This is where school uniforms can make a difference. Uniforms are more affordable than buying multiple sets of branded clothing and can ease the financial burden on parents.
4. Boosting discipline among students
Inculcating discipline is crucial for individuals from a young age as it sets the foundation for their entire life. Uniforms play a significant role in promoting school attendance and reducing absenteeism among underprivileged students. This, in turn, improves the overall quality of education and leads to higher average income and other social benefits. Wearing uniforms also fosters a focused and sincere behaviour towards teachers and fellow pupils, which are fundamental aspects of discipline that schools strive to instill in their students.
5. Reflecting Schools’ identity
School uniforms have the ability to create a strong sense of belonging and loyalty towards educational institutions. Students take pride in wearing the uniform dress code as a team representing their schools at various inter school events and competitions, be it at state or national level. As a result, this contributes to the schools’ reputation and encourages a sense of unity among the students.
On the other hand, schools without uniforms are required to make certain dress code policies which the students have to follow. This includes decisions about the type of skirts and pants to be worn by girls and boys, which can be quite cumbersome for the school administration. Therefore, having a uniform saves time for the school administration and makes the dress code policy much simpler.
What are the Cons of School Uniforms?
The implementation of school uniforms has been a widely debated topic across the globe. While proponents argue that uniforms promote discipline, equality, and loyalty towards the school, critics argue that it restricts the creativity, self-identity, and freedom of students. Moreover, purchasing uniforms can be a financial burden for low-income families. Some argue that uniforms do not necessarily address the root cause of issues such as bullying and can even exacerbate social hierarchies. Additionally, uniforms may not be suitable for all body types or cultural and religious backgrounds. Critics suggest that schools should focus on creating an inclusive and supportive environment rather than enforcing a uniform dress code.
1. Restriction on freedom
In schools, students are required to wear uniforms which can limit their freedom of choice. Students may not be comfortable wearing formal scarves and ties that are mandatory as per school dress code. Furthermore, some schools prohibit girls from wearing trousers, even during winters. Students are required to wear shoes that may not be suitable for running, and boys have to struggle with rolled-up sleeves and top buttons done up, even during summers. All these restrictions on clothing curtail the students’ sense of freedom and choice.
2. Creation of gender-specific segregation
Schools deciding the personality of a girl student based on the length of her skirts, her hairstyle, or not-so-braided hair is deeply astonishing. Gender inequality is evident in schools where boys are allowed to wear trousers but girls are forced to wear skirts, although with stockings, when the winters are the same for both. It is necessary to make some alterations in the uniform rules, promoting gender-neutral uniform options in every school.
3. Added stress to the impoverished
Many students from low-income families face difficulty in affording school uniforms, including costly blazers and track suits, which are restricted to be worn only within school premises. These school-specific shirts, sweaters and pants can cause immense stress to underprivileged children as they constantly worry about the possibility of being suspended from school. They also face continuous reprimands from their teachers and are often ridiculed by their classmates. Due to financial constraints, these students may not be able to communicate their uniform-related issues to their parents. In many reported cases, poor children are sent back home for incomplete or incorrect uniforms, causing further pressure and distress.
4. Creation of aversion to schools in minds of students
In many cases, students do not like going to school, and having to wear a uniform only adds to their dislike of the institution. Children prefer variety over monotony and therefore resist the idea of wearing a uniform. This can be seen in the fact that many children enjoy attending school on their birthday, the one day out of 365 when they are allowed to wear their favorite outfit.
5. Hampering Creativity
Many sociologists consider uniforms as a hindrance to creativity. According to them, uniforms aim to standardise every student into a uniform mould, thus suppressing creativity and encouraging conformity. Wearing the same outfit every day from a young age hampers the students’ ability to think outside the box and stand out. This can result in students feeling limited in their expression and unable to showcase their unique personalities.
6. Loss of an individual’s identity
Clothing is a way to distinguish ourselves from others and stand out in a crowd. Even in formal work environments, appearances play a significant role in communication. A person’s style and clothing choices have a profound impact on making a good impression in interviews. However, when students are required to wear uniforms and cannot choose their own clothing, it limits their problem-solving abilities and ability to dress appropriately for different situations.
According to a survey conducted in the United States, a student from Brunswick High School stated, “You can never be yourself with a uniform, it ruins your self-identity.” Uniforms can have a detrimental effect on a child’s self-image and force them to conform to a pre-set dress code against their own will.
While school uniforms promote positive values crucial to a child’s development, they also present numerous challenges. A study conducted by Bruce (2004) found that students had conflicting views on the impact of school uniforms on the learning environment. While some students did not enjoy wearing uniforms, others recognized their utility. Some parents also dislike uniforms because they limit their children’s sense of individuality and creativity.
The issue of uniforms ignoring pupils’ religious sentiments arose when the Karnataka High Court issued an order restricting the wearing of hijabs, stating that it was not an essential religious practice followed by Muslims. This led to the Hijab protest, with students forced to choose between religion or education. Challenges such as these where uniforms do not cover religious symbols can be highly controversial, particularly in a dynamic country like India.
It has also been proposed that strict enforcement of school dress codes cannot entirely alleviate the problem of bullying and discrimination in schools. Many students have been victims of discrimination in schools with strict uniforms. Thus, the only way to eliminate this problem is to create a sense of open-mindedness and genuine values in students to respect every class, culture, and society.
Deciding whether school uniforms will benefit a child is subjective and dependent on individual cases and situations. While some children view uniforms as a reason to hate school due to restrictions on creativity and artistry, others appreciate them as a way to focus on learning, growth, and development rather than physical and social appearances.
Even with the enforcement of uniforms, amendments must be made to eliminate possible significant negatives. Therefore, understanding what is essential for a child will help determine if school uniforms are a suitable fit or not.
It is important to note that school uniforms have been a topic of debate for years, with proponents and opponents arguing for their efficacy and drawbacks. While some believe that school uniforms promote discipline and a sense of community among students, others argue that they suppress individuality and creativity.
One major issue with school uniforms is that they can be expensive, putting an additional financial burden on already struggling families. Students who cannot afford the required uniforms may feel embarrassed or singled out, leading to a lack of confidence and poor academic performance.
Furthermore, some students may feel uncomfortable or even discriminated against due to their religious or cultural attire not being allowed under the school uniform policy. This can create a hostile environment that negatively affects the student’s mental health and academic performance.
While school uniforms may have some positive aspects, such as promoting discipline and a sense of community, they also have significant drawbacks that cannot be ignored. It is important for schools to consider the potential impact on students’ mental health and academic performance before implementing a uniform policy. Additionally, schools should work to ensure that uniforms are affordable and inclusive of all religious and cultural backgrounds.
- Brouillette, L. (2020). The Role of School Uniforms in Creating an Inclusive Campus. Journal of College Admission, 249, 30-35.
- Brunsma, D. L. (2015). The school uniform movement and what it tells us about American education: A symbolic crusade. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
- Gregory, A., Skiba, R. J., & Noguera, P. A. (2010). The achievement gap and the discipline gap: Two sides of the same coin?. Educational Researcher, 39(1), 59-68.
- King, K. A., Vidourek, R. A., & Schwiebert, M. J. (2019). School uniform policies: Perceptions of parents and school administrators. Journal of School Health, 89(4), 286-294.
- Musu-Gillette, L., Zhang, A., Wang, K., Zhang, J., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2018). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017 (No. NCES 2018-036/NCJ 251413). National Center for Education Statistics.