Face off: should schools have uniforms?

Compiled by Ben Young

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week …

Compiled by Ben Young |

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Shum Long-hin, 16, King George V School

Yes! I agree uniforms don’t have any real correlation to a person’s achievements, but they help students focus better in class, and they help to create a sense of unity within the school.

The way we dress says a lot about who we are as individuals. “Sameness” is discouraged, because it doesn’t necessarily represent our unique personalities. However, I think that’s a good thing at school. The same pair of trousers or a skirt, the same logo, and the same shirt help to eliminate peer pressure when it comes to looking good. Students feel less anxious when it comes to picking out what to wear in the morning. They won’t feel upset because they can only find something they think they will be laughed at for. If everyone dresses the same, we learn to see the person beyond what they’re wearing.

There is a statistic that says roughly 160,000 US students miss school every day to avoid being bullied. Whether we choose to believe this number or not, the fact is that uniforms take away one reason for why a student might be bullied.

Hong Kong is a city with huge gap between the rich and the poor. Imagine how it would feel to be a poor student and seeing a rich student come into school wearing the latest designer pieces. That might cause a feeling of isolation – either for the rich kid, or the poor kid, or both. If a student feels isolated and alone at school, then they are less likely to do well. If you can take away that concern for them by implementing a uniform rule, why wouldn’t you?

Finally, having a standard uniform for everyone means that people can’t get away with wearing inappropriate clothing. It stops people from wearing anything offensive, that’s too revealing, or that’s too bright for a classroom environment.

Pearl Chia, 17, South Island School

Schools are spaces where students should be able to experiment with their personal identities during some of their most formative years. I think school uniforms take away a person’s ability to do that, as they promote conformity over individuality. The making of school uniform policies takes time and effort, and takes teachers and school administrators away from other work they could be focused on. Uniforms often include a strict no-jewellery policy.

There are some religions where articles of faith may include a necklace, or a bracelet. Students who follow those religions would feel like they were being discriminated against if they couldn’t wear them. If they were allowed to wear them, students who don’t follow these faiths might feel as if they’re being unfairly policed because it’s one rule for them, and another rule for others.

School uniforms are impractical, too. The traditional girls’ uniform, of a blouse and skirt, is often not enough to wear in an air-conditioned classroom, or during winter. They’re often made from scratchy, stiff, unbreathable material. Students are not able to concentrate in class because all they can think about is how uncomfortable they feel. Many uniforms are sheer as well, which leads to self-consciousness and anxiety.

As a student grows, they will need new uniforms. They’re expensive, and are an additional expense that some parents may not be able to afford every year. A school uniform is only worn at school. Normal day-to-day clothes can be worn anytime, anywhere. A school uniform, on top of textbooks, writing materials, and tutorial classes? It’s not cheap.

The school uniform is an outdated tradition that’s more trouble than it’s worth. Let schools focus on a student’s education, not on what they’re wearing.

Edited by Ginny Wong