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  • Writer's pictureVaidehi Pant

Why Schools Need to Rethink School Uniforms

Imagine it’s the first day of school. You pick out your best possible outfit for the day– a vibrant and unique tie-dye sweatshirt and very subtly ripped jeans (I’m not very well-versed in gen-z clothes, bear with me)– because first impressions matter, don’t they? You reach school with an air of panache, nonchalance. But, as you step into the campus grounds, you notice hundreds of pairs of eyes on you, and your confidence deflates like a worn-out balloon. And then is the moment that you realize– the school has a uniform. 

If you study in a school that has a strict uniform policy, like I do, you would, obviously, be shocked out of your wits to see a person like that entering the building. But, somewhere inside you, you’ll feel just a teeny-tiny bit of envy and wish that the school didn’t force you to wear skirts and button-ups that are so 1950. Well, believe it or not, other than the feeble excuse of likes and dislikes, there are certain drawbacks to having and wearing a school uniform. Don’t get me wrong, school uniforms have their perks as well, such as promotion of equality, improved focus on learning, sense of belonging and even a better security system. But, it seems that the cons outweigh the pros by a good amount.

So, here are 5 reasons why schools should restructure the idea of a uniform and how it is worn, for the genuine betterment of student’s mental and physical wellbeing.

School Uniforms May Discourage Children from Active Play

A University of Cambridge study of more than 1 million kids in 135 countries found that in countries where most students wear school uniforms, fewer kids get the 60 minutes a day of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Researchers noted there was already evidence that girls aren't always comfortable participating in active play when they're wearing skirts or dresses. "Girls might feel less confident about doing things like cartwheels and tumbles in the playground, or riding a bike on a windy day, if they are wearing a skirt or dress," said senior study author Esther Van Sluijs, an MRC investigator at Cambridge. "Social norms and expectations tend to influence what they feel they can do in these clothes," she added in a Cambridge news release. "Unfortunately, when it comes to promoting physical health, that's a problem."

Suppression of Individuality

One of the primary arguments against school uniforms is that they stifle individual expression. Critics argue that students should have the freedom to express themselves through their clothing, and uniforms may inhibit the development of personal style. They also, somehow, reduce the child’s creative capacity, harming their out-of-the-box thinking skills. Clothing is a form of self-expression, and when students are forced to wear a uniform, they may feel like they are losing a part of themselves. In this way, school uniforms can be seen as a metaphorical straightjacket, limiting students’ freedom of expression.

Limited Preparation for Real-World Diversity

Uniforms may shield students from the diversity of people and situations they will encounter in the real world. By imposing a standardized dress code, schools may not adequately prepare students for the varied expectations and different styles, types of people, personalities and even perspectives that they may encounter in their future careers.

Violation of Religious Expression

School uniforms can also violate religious expression. Some religions require specific dress codes, and school uniforms may not accommodate those requirements. For example, Muslim girls may wear a hijab, which is not typically part of a school uniform. Forcing students to choose between their religious beliefs and their education is unfair and can lead to feelings of exclusion and discrimination.

Can Give Rise to Rebellion

If school uniforms are meant to promote good responsible behavior, it can actually turn into the opposite of desired results. Making something mandatory can cause revulsion towards it. So instead of promoting cooperation, a group of students who dislike the uniform would rather start a rebellion against wearing them. Some students may go ahead and make some sort of alterations (make cuts, take off buttons, or color) to the uniform, just to promote their dislike for the uniform. It promotes more disrespect for the institution and could prompt other students to do so too.

To conclude, the debate over school uniforms is complicated. Opponents emphasize individualism, financial pressure, and student resistance; proponents emphasize equality, safety, and school togetherness. Weighing the needs and ideals of each school community is essential to achieving a balance. Decisions regarding uniforms should prioritize students’ well-being, academic experience, and school culture comprehensively. Hence, let’s work together to voice out our concerns and rethink the uniform policy.

Written by Vaidehi Pant

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