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It is universally accepted that schools are the most appropriate venues from where knowledge and skills can be imparted to students. Policy makers and educators all over the world try to come up with the best form of education for the school-aged citizens. In the Asian high schools, educators make use of policies that are aimed at promoting the best outcome from students. One of the policies widely applied by high schools in South Korea, China, and Japan is mandatory school uniforms.
Proponents of this policy argue that it leads to the best educational outcomes by students. However, this view is not unanimous and opponents of the policy asset that students should have the freedom to wear regular clothes. This paper will set out to argue that the school uniform policy in Asian high schools should be abolished since the policy prevents students from having individuality. The paper will demonstrate that the uniform policy is unjustifiable since in one of its core aspiration, which is to enhance discipline among students.
Why the Uniform Policy should be Abolished
By being forced to dress in a certain way, school uniforms limit a student’s individuality. The school uniform promotes conformity as all senses of individuality in the student are blurred when they are forced to wear similar outfits.
Han declares that the uniform policy ends up covering the differences that exist in the school setting. The school uniform policy ignores the reality that we live in a diverse world where people have different tastes and preferences. This diversity is informed by the cultural background and individual experiences of the individual.
When students are allowed to wear unique clothes, they have the avenue to express their unique individuality and celebrate the differences that exist amongst themselves. One argument made by proponents of school uniforms is that it equalizes students and ensures that there is no distinction among students. By wearing uniforms, there is no opportunity for class or social distinction since wealthier students and poorer students are all forced to dress in the same way.
However, the fact is that differences exist among individuals in society. Instead of looking for ways to suppress these differences, schools should promote good relationships among students of varying cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Some researchers argue that by suppressing the individuality of the student, the uniform policy prevents the society from addressing issues such as inequality and stereotyping.
The conformity promoted by the uniform policy has a negative impact on student creativity. When students are allowed to wear their normal home clothes, they have an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity. Schools that do not have a mandatory uniform policy also convey a spirit of innovation and originality.
In such an environment, students are inspired to exercise their creativity. Creativity is necessary for the future prosperity of the society since it leads to new inventions and innovations. As institutions that nurture skills and promote the development of talents in students, schools are supposed to promote creativity.
By encouraging uniformity, the school uniform policy extinguishes the flame of creativity in students making them less productive members of the society. School uniforms also decrease the independence of students since educators encourage individuals to act in a similar fashion. Nemoto declares that uniforms have a negative effect on the development of student’s independent spirit. The uniform policy therefore discourages a culture of innovation among the students.
The school uniform policy violates the rights of the student since they are denied their freedom of choice and expression. Even through students are not fully self-reliant citizens, they are entitled to some basic rights in society. One of these rights is the freedom of expression, which articulates the right of the student to express himself to the public as long as it is in an appropriate manner.
Studies indicate that most students, especially from urban areas, have a poor perception of school uniforms. However, they are still obligated to wear the uniforms since it is mandatory school policy. The uniform policy is therefore perceived by many as an infringement on their freedoms. In most cases, students in Asian high schools are unable to demonstrate against the perceived injustice against them.
As such, school uniforms promote compliancy even when those in authority are trampling upon the rights of the individual. Opponents of the school uniform policy assert that it leads to the formation of students who are unlikely to value the ideals of freedom of expression. In the Asian countries, students are displeased with the imposition of the uniform policy.
However, they have to wear their uniforms and there is little public opposition to the policy. Greater priority is placed on respect and obedience to the authorities. Amita suggests that school uniforms encourage a subservient attitude by the student. This attitude is carried forward into the society where students will continue to demonstrate great obedience to the authorities even when they feel that their rights are being infringed upon
Arguments in Support of Uniform Policy and Refutations
Advocates of the school uniform policy in Asian high schools argue that uniforms eliminate competition among students as each student has the same outfit.
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They further contend that wearing a school uniform decreases non-academic distractions since students will not waste time wearing flashing clothes to impress their peers. These assertions are supported by research findings by Firmin and Smith, which demonstrate that competition exists among high school students and many students wear particular clothes for the express reason of showing off to their friends.
Teachers and parents are of the opinion that uniforms can eliminate teasing and competition among peers. While mitigating competition and teasing in high schools is a noble endeavor, uniforms may not be the solution to this problem. Studies demonstrate that uniforms are unlikely to alter negative interactions among students at school. Even when in uniform, students still engage in deleterious acts such as teasing and bullying.
Competition is still rife with students looking for new avenues to show off to their peers. In Japan, some students decorate their clothes or wear bright accessories to differentiate themselves from others. The competition elimination role that school uniforms supposedly play is therefore not realized in the Asian high schools.
School uniform policy supporters believe that school uniforms encourage good behavior and conformity by students. In most cases, teachers promote the enforcement of uniform policy since they believe that if students are allowed to show individuality or originality in appearance, they are more likely to be rebellious against teachers or school rules.
The psychological development of high school students increases the likelihood that they will engage in rebellious behavior. Research indicates that there are instances where mandatory a school uniform policy leads to the reduction in problem behaviors among the students.
However, the relationship between implementing a mandatory school uniform policy and bad behavior mitigation is not always straightforward. Most studies that show an inverse relationship between school uniforms and the number of students’ problem behaviors fail to consider the numerous school safety initiatives that have an impact on student behavior. If these external factors are considered, it will be observed that school uniforms do not lead to a reduction in the frequency of students’ problem behaviors.
Educators are tempted to use the uniform policy as an easy way to control students’ problem behavior and create a safe school environment. However, research indicates that the uniform policy by itself does not fulfill these roles. In addition to this, there is evidence suggesting that imposing school uniforms on students might actually exacerbate the situation of problematic behavior.
In some Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan where teachers enforce the uniform policy strictly, incidents of rebellion are higher. Some students engage in bad behavior as a protest and deliberately break school rules or commit other misdeeds. Research by Rockquemore and Brunsma actually demonstrates that students who wore uniforms “had worse behavior problems than all other students”.
Supporters of school uniforms in Asian schools declare that uniforms prevent delinquent behavior by students outside the school setting. These advocates reveal that by forcing students to wear students, they are easily identifiable in the public and they are unlikely to engage in delinquent acts. Empirical tests confirm that uniforms may be effective in decreasing delinquent behavior such as vandalism, theft, and burglary since the person is easily identifiable as a student.
However, this preventative role only applies to students who are not motivated to engage in antisocial behavior in the first place. Research indicates that students who are motivated to engage will still find ways to carry out offenses even if they are forced to wear uniforms. Students can carry a change of clothing in a bag and therefore be free of their uniforms before getting home.
They can then engage in delinquent behavior without anyone noticing that they are students. Research by Rockquemore and Brunsma indicated that uniforms had no effects of the behavior of students and they did not promote positive behavior. Instead, any positive behavior was the result of social relations and values held by the students.
Advocate of school uniforms policy in high schools state that school uniforms improve the academic outcomes of students. This claim gives great weight to imposition of school uniforms among Asian schools since every stakeholder in the educational sector wants to see students achieve the best educational results. Some research findings on the impact of school uniforms on test scores suggest that there is a positive correlation between the two.
According to a research conducted by Bodine, students from schools were a uniform policy was implemented demonstrated better academic performance than students from schools where no uniforms were used. The idea that school uniforms increase academic performance has been refuted by further research. Kerry and Brunsma contend that the claims that uniforms increase student achievement are not supported by research findings.
Furthermore, research findings demonstrate that academic outcomes of students are determined by multiple factors including; student capability, teacher competence, school administrative policies, and student socio-economic status. It would therefore be very misguided to attribute good performance to the school uniform policy. Any attempt by educators in Asian high schools to utilize school uniforms to deliver high academic performance is bound to fail.
The high school uniform policy is widely promoted by educators and policy makers in Asian countries. This overwhelming support for a uniform policy is prompted by perceived positive outcomes attributed to implementing such a policy.
The expansive implementation of the school uniform policy in high schools in Japan, South Korea, and China is not based on evidence from empirical studies on the positive outcomes from this policy. Research findings overwhelming show that there are limited positive results achieved by implementing the uniform policy in high schools. Students who wear uniforms do not demonstrate stronger pro-school attitudes or better behavior than their peers who do not wear uniforms.
This paper set out to argue that the school uniform policy should be abolished in Asian high schools. It began by highlighting that the uniform policy is enforced out of the perceived advantages to be gained by having students in uniform outfit. The paper has demonstrated that the uniform policy leads to negative outcomes by preventing individuality and creativity among students.
The policy also infringe on the freedom of expression that should be enjoyed by the students. The best society is one where citizens enjoy certain freedoms and are able to confront the authority when their freedoms are violated. From the arguments presented in this paper, it is clear that the uniform policy does not promote the development of such a society.
From the evidence presented in this paper, it is clear that the positive perception toward school uniforms is based on faulty assumptions. In reality, school uniforms do not have positive effects on the learning outcomes and behavior of students, or school climate in Asian high schools. The uniform policy should therefore be abolished in Asian high schools in order to avoid the numerous demerits attributed to them and therefore guarantee a better future for the students.
Bodine, Anne. “School Uniforms, Academic Achievement, and Uses of Research.” Journal of Educational Research 97, no.2 (2003): 67-71.
Brunsma, David. The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade. NY: R&L Education, 2004.
Brunsma, David and Rockquemore Kerry. “Statistics, Sound Bites, and School Uniforms: A Reply to Bodine.” Journal of Educational Research 97, no.2 (2003): 72-77.
Firmin, Michael and Smith Suzanne. “School Uniforms: A Qualitative Analysis of Aims and Accomplishments at Two Christian Schools.” Journal of Research on Christian Education 15, no.2 (2006): 143-168.
Gentile, Elisabetta and Imberman Scott. “Dressed for Success? The Effect of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Behavior.” Journal of Educational Research 103, no.1 (2010): 17-31.
Gupta, Amita. Going to school in South Asia. Boston: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007.
Han, Seunghee. “A Mandatory Uniform Policy in Urban Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2003-04.” International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership 5, no. 8 (2010): 1-13.
Ishtiaq, Ahmed. The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia. NY: Taylor & Francis, 2011.
Nault, Derrick. “The State and Uniform Policy.” Asia Journal of Global Studies 3, no. 1 (2003): 40-49.
Nemoto, Yasuhiro. The Japanese Education System. NY: Universal-Publishers, 1999.
Rockquemore, Kerry and Brunsma David. “Effects of student uniforms on attendance, behavior problems, substance use, and academic achievement.” The Journal of Educational Research 92, no. 1 (1998): 53-62.
Seth, Micheal. Education fever: society, politics, and the pursuit of schooling in South Korea. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.
- Yasuhiro Nemoto, The Japanese Education System (NY: Universal-Publishers, 1999), 75.
- Han Seunghee, “A Mandatory Uniform Policy in Urban Schools: Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2003-04,” International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership 5, no. 8 (2010): 3.
- Ahmed Ishtiaq, The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia (NY: Taylor & Francis, 2011), 34.
- Micheal Seth, Education fever: society, politics, and the pursuit of schooling in South Korea (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2002), 35.
- Yasuhiro, 74.
- Amita Gupta, Going to school in South Asia (Boston: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), 32.
- Michael Firmin and Suzanne Smith, “School Uniforms: A Qualitative Analysis of Aims and Accomplishments at Two Christian Schools,” Journal of Research on Christian Education 15, no.2 (2006): 165.
- David Brunsma, The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade (NY: R&L Education, 2004), 35.
- Nemoto, 74.
- Han, 9.
- Kerry Rockquemore and David Brunsma, “Effects of student uniforms on attendance, behavior problems, substance use, and academic achievement,” The Journal of Educational Research 92, no. 1 (1998): 58.
- David, 40.
- Kerry and David, 58.
- Elisabetta Gentile and Scott Imberman, “Dressed for Success? The Effect of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Behavior.” Journal of Educational Research 103, no.1 (2010): 18.
- Anne Bodine, “School Uniforms, Academic Achievement, and Uses of Research,” Journal of Educational Research 97, no.2 (2003): 67.
- Kerry and David, 58
- David Brunsma and Kerry Rockquemore, “Statistics, Sound Bites, and School Uniforms: A Reply to Bodine,” Journal of Educational Research 97, no.2 (2003): 72.
- Derrick Nault, “The State and Uniform Policy,” Asia Journal of Global Studies 3, no. 1 (2003): 42.