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Debate: School uniform

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Should uniforms in schools be abandoned?

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The question of whether children should wear a uniform to school always makes for a lively debate, and not only among students! In some countries school uniform is normal and most schools make their students wear one.
Britain is the most obvious example of this, but in many other countries with strong links to Britain uniform often has to be worn to school - examples include Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and many other African countries. Uniform is also required at almost all schools in Japan. In other countries, particularly in continental Europe, the USA and Canada, uniform is very rare in state-funded schools, although private schools may have one. Debates about school uniform have been going on for decades in different countries and districts, but during the 1990s state schools in the USA began to adopt uniforms. At first uniform rules were seen as a way of stopping children dressing in gang colours in troubled urban areas. Later, claims that introducing uniform leads to better discipline and educational results encouraged other school districts and schools to make a change. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have been in favour of school uniforms. Other countries have picked up on this trend - for example, there has been talk of making German children wear uniforms. This topic looks at a very large number of arguments about uniforms. Not all of these will apply in every country or school, so take care only to select the ones that are relevant for your debate. The proposition (affirmative or government) side here is arguing for uniforms to be scrapped, but the case could easily be reversed if your debate is about introducing uniforms instead.
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Do the uniforms create a desirable feeling of belonging somewhere?

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Yes

  • Having all students wear the same uniform helps create a sense that you belong somewhere and maintain a good school either by culture or spirit . And by showing that the expects an even higher standard, expectations are soon raised and students will usually respond with a better, more mature, behavior. When the United States began to use uniforms in public school there were many reports of improved discipline.


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No

  • School uniforms hamper original thinking in students. Everyone says that uniforms make students equal which will cause less bulling but has anyone ever thought about people who are forced to wear certain items, such as a head scarf, to school.They will be pulled out of school at an earlier age if they do not follow the family's religious beliefs. Not only that, all kids should be given the freedom to chose what they like rather than wearing what they do not like. When they grow up they will never be able to give their opinion on something, whatever it may be. When choosing a dress to wear to school, kids might take time at the same time they learn to think for themselves and to give their ideas to the world, now like in school...
We all have a right to individuality, to make personal choices and to express our personality. This right of free expression includes the way we choose to dress. Making everyone wear the same school uniform infringes on (goes against) our rights and is a misuse of authority. The right to choose what to wear is particularly important for young people, who often have few other ways of expressing their personality or making choices about their lives.
Additionally, children may be laughed at by outsiders. Most kids absolutely hate uniforms.
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Do school uniforms help to scrap social inequalities?

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Yes

Only a few inner-city schools have had problems with children wearing “gang colours”. Many of these have got rid of the problem not by introducing uniform, but by simply having a dress code which bans such gang clothes and symbols. In fact, uniform boosts a “gang state of mind” by marking children out and dividing students from different schools against each other. This can increase conflict between young people outside school, leading to bullying and violence.

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No

Uniform is a social leveller - it makes all the children at a school equal no matter what their family background or income. If students can choose their own clothes, then the rich kids compete to show off their expensive designer labels and costly sneakers (trainers). Children from poorer families get picked on for not being able to afford lots of pricey outfits. Schools in the USA have used uniform to overcome the problem of students wearing “gang colours” if they were allowed to choose their own clothes. Clothes with particular colours or symbols marked rival groups of students out as linked to street gangs. This often led to fighting inside and outside the classroom. If everyone has to wear the same clothes to school, this problem is removed.

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Do school uniforms improve children's' results?

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No

There is no good evidence that links school uniform to improved results. A few schools in the USA reported better test scores after they started having uniform, but most of these made other changes to the running of the school which could have helped instead. Studies looking at lots of schools, with and without uniform, have not found any link between what children wear and school results.

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Yes

Schools with uniforms obtain better educational results. This is because there is better discipline and so the school setting makes learning easier. Without the distraction of checking out what all the other students are wearing (or how much flesh they are showing), students find it easier to concentrate and do better in tests.

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Are the uniforms practical?

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Yes

  • Uniform has practical advantages. Students don’t have to waste time thinking what to wear at the start of each school day. The clothes are designed to be comfortable and safe, with no long trailing sleeves, skirts or hoods to catch on dangerous equipment in workshops or science lessons. It is also very helpful on trips as staff can quickly spot all the students from their school, keeping them out of trouble and making sure no one gets lost.
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No

  • Uniform is often not practical or pleasant to wear. Designs are often old-fashioned and ugly. Clothes that are designed to be worn by all shapes and sizes of student fit no one really well. For cheapness uniform items are often made of polycottons which are hot in warm weather but don’t keep children properly warm in winter. Children in uncomfortable outfits are unlikely to learn much.
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Can introducing of school uniforms reduce crime and violence at schools?

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Yes

  • Introducing uniform can reduce crime in schools, especially violence and theft. Headteachers at several US schools report lower levels of violence and crime after uniforms were introduced. This is partly due to better discipline, but also because students no longer come to school wearing desirable designer clothes or $100 trainers (sneakers). Uniform also helps makes schools safer as it makes intruders much easier to spot. Anyone not in uniform can easily be seen and reported.
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No

  • There is no proper research that shows that introducing uniforms cuts crime in schools. Uniforms can actually lead to more violence, as they make students from rival schools much more obvious in the street or on the bus. “Us-and-them” feelings are made worse by uniform, and bullying and fighting between students from different schools can increase.
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Do the uniforms satisfy religious and cultural needs?

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Yes

  • School uniform can satisfy religious and cultural needs. In areas with lots of children from different backgrounds (such as British cities) it is common to consult parents and the local community. For example, Muslim girls can be allowed to wear loose long trousers and tops in school colours, instead of the skirts or dresses worn by other female students.
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No

  • Forcing children to wear uniform can ignore their religious and cultural needs. For example, Sikh boys, Orthodox Jews and Islamic girls all express their religious beliefs through the way they dress, and uniform stops them doing this. In particular, school uniforms are often not modest enough in covering the female body to suit Muslims. Taking away this freedom of religious expression can also lead parents to choose private faith schools, limiting integration and the mixing of different cultures. When you make Islamic, and Sikh children wear uniforms you violate their identity and their religious code.
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Are school uniforms obsolete?

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Yes

Very few countries feel the need to put most of their children in school uniforms. Mostly it is a British thing not shared by the rest of the world. Outside Britain, most schools with uniforms are private schools trying to set themselves apart from the state education system. Uniform is almost unknown in European countries, yet their schools often have high standards of behaviour and learning. Until the 1990s uniform was very rare in the USA. Since then some US schools and districts have introduced uniform, but the large majority of schools still do not have it. Some of those which did adopt uniform have since given up on it again.

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No

School uniform is a tradition worth keeping. In countries like Britain many schools have had uniforms for over a hundred years. The exact clothes can be updated with the times, but the overall look of the uniform provides a link with the school’s past. Wearing it encourages pride in the school and gives out a good image to outsiders.

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Are the uniforms a good value for money?

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Yes

  • Uniform is usually cheaper than letting children choose what they will wear to school. Young people feel pressure to dress in the latest thing and not to wear the same outfit often. This often leads their parents to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes each year. With uniform taking away this pressure, there is usually a much smaller overall cost for the parents. Families who are hard-up can often get help with the cost of uniform, or buy it second-hand. For these reason parents often like uniform. At some schools it is parents groups that start campaigns to introduce it.
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No

  • Uniforms are expensive and can be hard for parents to afford - it is like a tax on sending your child to school. After all, it is not as if children won’t need other clothes too, for evenings, weekends and holidays. Special clothes like uniforms are only produced in small quantities, and so are more costly than normal clothes. Often, they can only be bought from one or two special shops, which also pushes the price up. The cost of uniform often means that parents dislike it and it can lead to a bad relationship between them and the school.
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Do school uniforms represent just an unnecessary rule?

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Yes

Schools waste a lot of time trying to enforce uniform rules. Because children don’t like wearing uniform, they fight against it in many clever ways (e.g. shortening skirts, wearing non-regulation shoes and hosiery, tying their ties in funny ways, etc.). Schools in the US often allow parents an “opt-out” from uniform, which means teachers have to check what list a child is on at the start of every lesson.

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No

Students will always kick against the system, whatever that is. If there is a dress code instead of a uniform, they will try to bend those rules instead. For example, how short a skirt is too short? Are crop-tops allowed? What about hats or hoods which hide the student’s face? Most problems of enforcing uniform rules in the USA are because uniform is voluntary, or students are allowed an opt-out from it. If uniform must be worn by everyone there is much less confusion and enforcing the rules is quicker and simpler.

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Are school uniforms better than just dress codes?

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Yes

Having a uniform helps students and parents resist peer pressure. In schools with no uniform, children may feel the need to dress in certain ways in order to fit in. This can often mean buying a lot of expensive and fashionable clothes that families cannot really afford. It can also mean girls being pressured into wearing skimpy clothes to try and look sexy at a very young age. It could even include Muslim girls feeling that they must wear a headscarf even though they don’t want to.

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No

Rather than introduce school uniform, why not have a dress code instead? This has all the benefits of uniform without the many disadvantages. While uniforms force all children to wear the same clothes, dress codes give students a lot of choice what to wear. Only a few unsuitable things are banned - for example, gang colours, very short skirts, crop tops, bare shoulders, etc.

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Are the uniforms a beneficial preparation for future careers?

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Yes

Wearing a uniform helps to prepare students for the world of work, where uniforms are often worn. People like nurses, soldiers, shop assistants, the police and railway staff wear uniform as part of their job. Many other workers are expected to wear suits - really just a grown up sort of uniform, with little choice about it. Just like these adults, students should dress in uniform when they are in school, getting on with work. After all, students and adults can both change into their own casual clothes at the end of the working day, when they are “off duty”.

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No

Wearing a school uniform is not good preparation for working. Only a few jobs require uniforms, and many of these are low-paid service jobs - not what we want our young people to aim for. After all, their main role-models at school - the teachers - don’t have to wear a uniform. Well-paid jobs used to require a suit, but this has been changing in recent years and smart-casual clothes are much more common now. Even if you have to wear a suit, you still have a huge choice of styles, colour and accessories with which to express your personality. This isn’t true of school uniform.

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