In many parts of the world, the uniform is an accepted appendage of school life. While it has its nay sayers, uniforms are largely thought to promote unity, discipline, and a continued focus on education. Given that the school must have a uniform, what is it that the school can do to make the proposition attractive to the students and parents? How can they ensure that their students are dressed comfortably and appropriately and ready to learn and succeed?
The one country that greatly influenced school uniforms across the world is without doubt England. To this day, trousers or skirt, tie and the blazer is the non-negotiable formal wear for special occasions in schools. The first thing that a uniform should be is practical and smart. It should be comfortable to wear and keep up with the times. Since the focus of the school is on education the uniform should not distract or make students uncomfortable. An open collar look is definitely more contemporary, cool and relaxed than having the neck constricted by a wisp of cloth hanging limply in the name of a tie. Why not wear a T-shirt to school? It’s cool, comfortable and in keeping with the changing trends in apparel.
The cost factor
The cost of the uniform should never be a deterrent to parents admitting their wards to a school. Moreover children outgrow their uniforms with alarming regularity. The price of the uniform should therefore be reasonable so that the parents do not have to bear unnecessary financial burden. Fortunately there is no law for or against school uniforms so it is easier for schools to decide on a dress that is both easy to wear and easy on the pocket.
Since students spend a large part of the day and almost 13 years of their lives in school there has to be some level of comfort in their dress. I know of a student who complained time and again of headaches and feigned sickness every time he had to go for his extra curricular activity which was St John’s Ambulance brigade. It was after several weeks that his mother realized that the beret that her son was wearing as a part of his uniform was made of pure wool. The uniform that had been prescribed for a bitterly cold country had been incorporated lock, stock and barrel in a hot, tropical climate without any thought. It is this kind of approach that we need to avoid.
Similarly the ‘black shoes and white socks’ look in hot countries needs to be relooked. Weren’t we doing perfectly fine without shoes and socks before the British visited us? Don’t blame them, the weather they grew up in required keeping toes snug and warm. What is stopping our schools from prescribing comfortable open sandals or canvas shoes for academic time? They are definitely lighter on the pocket and comfortable for students during summer.
The author has been a teacher and school administrator in India and Singapore for nearly 20 years. She is currently Manager – Learning Vertical at Kloneworld Pte Ltd. She is also a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].