School uniform

From Academic Kids

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Japanese high school students in uniform

School uniforms are common in elementary and secondary schools in many nations. School uniforms are the best known form of student uniform, other types of which include uniforms worn by students participating in higher vocational training, for instance in health related occupations.

The European country that has the most widespread use of school uniforms is the United Kingdom (see below). The practice of prescribing clothing has spread from there to many formerly British territories (including the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa).

Japan is another industrialised country in which school uniforms are nearly universal. In most of continental Europe and Scandinavia, school uniforms are however not common. Russia abolished school uniforms in its public school system after the replacement of communist party government in the early 1990s. Cuba still dresses its children in the "pioneer" uniform. In 2004 the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools was introduced to outlaw obvious religious clothing and symbols.

In North America school uniforms are generally not used in public (state-sponsored) schools. However, independent schools often have school uniforms. In the 1990s, there was a trend, including a mention by President Clinton in a State of the Union Address toward re-introducing uniforms in American public schools, and especially so in low-income areas. This was at first motivated by a need to counter "gang clothing", but has later also been seen by some as a way of improving morale and school discipline.

Traditionally, school uniforms have been subdued and professional. Boys' uniforms often consist of dark trousers and light-coloured shirt, plus a jacket in cold weather. A girl's might consist of a skirt and blouse. The gender-specific uniforms have been another point of contention, and some schools permit female students to choose either skirt or trousers. The use of a blazer or suit-like jacket has come into favour in some areas.

British night clubs often organise uniform theme parties where patrons are asked to wear adult versions of the uniform. This kind of use of children's clothing may be controversial in context of heavy drinking and sexual behaviour. Angus Young from the Australian musical act AC/DC often wears his school uniform on stage.


School Uniform in the United Kingdom

As mentioned, school uniform is extremely common in schools and colleges in the United Kingdom. In recent years, there have been topical debates in the media relating to the increasing cost of school uniforms, and the enforcement of school uniform dress codes which occassionally cause controversy. These include, rules against allowing female students to wear trousers and allowing students of differing religions to wear headscarves.

  • A typical British school uniform dress code is as follows:
    • School blazer
    • Plain white or blue shirt, top button fastened.
    • School tie
    • Black or navy trousers
    • Grey, dark blue or black socks
    • Plain black shoes
    • Black/Navy v-neck pullover, or black pullover with the school crest.
    • Outer clothing of a sober design
    • Hair clean and neat, of natural colour, and neither beyond collar length nor close-shaven
    • You must be clean-shaven.

An excerpt taken from the Nottingham High School for Boys, United Kingdom website.

Proponents of uniforms argue

  • they reduce cliques (or gangs) and peer-envy based on clothes
  • they allow the student to focus on schoolwork rather than on socialising
  • they add a professional air to the school environment, resulting in better morale
  • parents do not have to spend on fashionable brand attire
  • they give a sense of belonging to the school

Common arguments against school uniforms are:

  • they violate the students' right to self-expression
  • some school uniforms can be costly
  • "one-size-fits-all" style does not suit all students' body shapes,
  • many uniforms are not gender-neutral, which may lead to exploitation or discrimination
  • many times students still manage to show socio-economic status and brand consciousness within the uniform policy

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