The school uniform has long history. Many schools have constant disputes on the necessity of wearing the school uniform. Some schools affirm that it is not only a face of a pupil, but also a face of a school. However, others claim that it effects neither academic achievement nor discipline of students. There are both advantages and disadvantages of the school uniform. The main advantages are a sign of belonging to a certain school and a kind of a synonym to the word discipline. It reduces competition and envy. It hides social differences. There are many disadvantages as well. The school uniform does not develop personality. It is an element of equation of all children. It may be very expensive for poor families. It can be very inconvenient and unfashionable. It can sometimes create complexes. Some schools do not have schools uniform, but a certain dress code. For example, girls are not allowed wearing short skirts or high heels, and boys – extremely wide pants and shirts.
History of school uniforms has more than one decade. Debates about the positive and negative sides of the uniformity in clothes have been conducted for many years. In many schools, there are disputes on the necessity of the school uniform. The school should not only teach, but also educate a sense of the style and extent in children. A school uniform is a casual form of clothes for students during their stay at school and on the official school activities outside of a school. It is not only a face of a pupil, but also a face of a school. In the United States, a school uniform is common in private schools. It usually contains the logo of the institution. Public schools do not have this rule. However, most of schools have a clear dress code and are asked to wear removable shoes and pants for physical education. Different institutions have different rules. For example, the length of mini-skirts must not be shorter than the tips of the fingers. Transparent clothes are prohibited. As a rule, students wear simple clothing: jeans, wide T-shirts and sneakers. Debates about school uniforms in the US are constant. Ardent supporters of democracy defend the rights of students in their style. However, some believe that the school uniform forms discipline and improves performance.
Many students do not realize the beauty and practicality of the school uniform. In addition, it is a part of traditions and history of the country and schools. Children must appreciate and respect them. The aim of the study is to determine the impact of the school uniform on academic achievements, safety, financial implications, freedom of expression and dress code.
School Uniform and Academic Achievement
Psychologists have decided to learn if school uniforms depend on the mood and academic achievement of students. Findings were ambiguous. Many people believe that a school uniform helps children be more organized and not be distracted on the lessons thereby increasing their academic achievement. “It is typically assumed that uniforms are the sole factor causing direct change in numerous behavioral and academic outcomes” (Brunsma & Rockquemore, 1998). It helps maintain the spirit and traditions of the institution and instills a sense of belonging and unity of students and teachers. The school uniform helps maintain discipline and improves academic achievement. In 1998, a scientific research was conducted, which showed that students that wear the school uniform learnt better than those whose schools were allowed not to wear it. Experts believe that in this case, children are not distracted by the discussion of clothing. The school uniform attunes them to behave more seriously within the walls of the institution. It reduces the time that children spend on the decision what to wear to school. “It reduces the students’ responsibility in making mature choices about what to wear” (Walker, 2007).
However, other scientists believe that there is no direct link between school uniforms and academic achievements of students. The school uniform really acts as a measure of control and discipline on some students. However, it cannot be expected that the school uniform will improve academic achievements of all students. Introduction of school uniforms without efforts of both students and parents unlikely affects the progress in studies. Hundreds of factors (especially teacher training) have an influence on academic achievements. Therefore, it is impossible to see how the school uniforms help students. A child will probably spend the time saved by the fact that it is not necessary to choose what to wear on computer games rather than lessons. Not to mention the fact that the choice of clothes takes no more than 10-15 minutes a day.
School Uniform and Safety
Many defenders of the school uniform argue that its main advantage lies in the fact that it reduces the risk of conflicts between peers and increases their safety outside the school. It also increases the level of security inside the school. Among children, who wear the school uniform, the number of fights is reduced by half. Student’s sending downs are also reduced. Cases of vandalism are significantly reduced. It is harder to skip classes. Children in the school uniform walking around the city are immediately noticeable. Therefore, a student in the school uniform is hardly sold beer or cigarettes.
Recently, in the United States, the school uniform is real life-saving, due to frequented shootings at schools. “Concerns about school violence have led to increased interest in and acceptance of uniform policies, which specify what must be worn, or strict dress codes, which identify prohibited attire” (Lumsden, 2001). In this case, the main advantage of the school uniform is that for a student, it is harder to hide a weapon under it rather than under baggy or large clothes. A uniform policy can prevent it. “Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) was the first school district in the United States that adopted a district-wide uniform dress code policy” (Wilson, 1999). However, the policy cannot solve all problems.
The main argument, which defenders of school uniforms make, is that it is cheaper to buy a set of uniform than to collect for a child the whole wardrobe for the entire school year. It is a great help for poor parents. One of the tasks of school uniforms is to unite children of different social status. Common criteria for children’s appearance should help avoid many unpleasant provocations. Children learn to assess each other’s personal qualities, but not the family’s financial situation. A school uniform helps students adapt to the school atmosphere. Many experts believe that an obvious advantage of the school uniform is that it mitigates visible signs of the social stratification among children and adolescents. When some students are dressed in costumes from expensive boutiques or sewn in elite ateliers, and others wear clothes from cheap stores, the difference in family incomes is very noticeable. On the other hand, the school uniform cannot hide this difference. The difference in families’ income still will be shown. There are shoes, cosmetics, perfumes, jewelry and mobile phones. Thus, children can always find the way how to stand out from others and children from wealthier families will always find a way to emphasize their social status. In addition, among child psychologists, there is an opinion that the hidden social inequality is not for the benefit of a child. It exists in society, and the school uniform makes an attempt to mask it artificially. The task of parents and teachers is to teach children to take different circumstances adequately and give the top priority to human qualities and not to the cost of clothing.
However, a set of uniforms does not cover all the needs of a child. Parents will still buy ordinary clothes for a child. Therefore, the school uniform becomes a source of additional costs. That is, it does not reduce the problem of poor families, but rather increases it. In fact, a good school uniform is always expensive. A child has time to stain the clothes a few times during a week. School uniforms have to be changed almost every year due to the physiological characteristics of children. Therefore, the school uniform is not cheaper than the usual clothes and can be very expensive for poor families.
Freedom of Expression
Unified clothes as a form of a particular educational institution plays an important role in allocation of students of this community among other individuals of the society, and can serve as a means of identification, rising of the corporate spirit and a sense of belonging to a certain idea and community. However, frequently, the school uniform plays a directly opposite role. Self-identification of students is impossible. Initially, the task of the school uniform was to eliminate the differences between people of different faiths, religions, social and economic status within a specific space – school. However, at the same time, any differences between students are eliminated.
There is a major and very important reason for the rejection of an idea of introducing school uniforms. Many psychologists believe that the use of a single form in schools suppresses individuality of a child. Wearing of uniforms suppresses individuality and creates attitude to students as a faceless mass, instead to focus on the individuality and develop a sense of responsibility for his/her actions in every child. This element equalizes all students in education and training. The school uniform inhibits the development of human creativity and prevents self-expression. For each person, the ability to express individuality is very important, especially for the younger generation. A strict requirement to wear a uniform is, to some extent, a form of violence against the person. The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has the right to freedom of expression. A school uniform is undoubtedly suppresses this freedom. It can lead to learning difficulties. “While dress is broadly protected as a form of free speech under the first amendment of the Constitution, the courts have recognized the special role of schools in American life and the unique needs of the school environment” (Johnston, 2009).
The mandatory school uniform may hinder the development of children’s taste, style and comfort. For children and adolescents, inability to express themselves in clothes can be a sensitive stress hindering full and harmonious development of personality. A personality is measured by various parameters including the style of clothing. If a child does not have a habit of dressing in the style, in which h/she is psychologically comfortable, a child is defenseless. In this case, a single school uniform is not very good for all students. However, if it stands as an emblem of the institution, which has traditions, respect for students and a high level of education, it can be a kind of psychological protection. A teenager is a set of internal contradictions. If he/she is not allowed expressing himself/herself in clothes, it can lead either to outrageous behavior, or to extreme constraint. Many psychologists argue that for the development of the taste, style and individual approach to clothing, it is necessary to put more efforts than simply allow a child to wear what he/she wants. It is a combination of many factors, in which daily clothes does not play a major role. It is important to travel with children and develop a sense of beauty in them.
In the United States, about half of the schools have a dress code. The official school uniform is used in 25% of schools. Almost all private schools in the US implemented a dress code. “Virtually with no exception, schools have minimum dress codes in place: rules about what cannot be worn at school” (Gereluk, 2007). The dress code is a complete multi-disciplinary ensemble. It is comfortable and convenient. It creates a sense of belonging to one or another educational institution. School fashion is very static. It is both its advantage and disadvantage. After all, if there are rules, students want to violate them. “Black smock and white collar have been worn as the school uniform since early years of the Turkish Republic” (Hesapcioglu & Meseci, 2009). Nowadays, an unspoken school code in many schools provides observance of the dress code. It is desirable that the uniform includes summer and winter sets. Only in this case, a child will be comfortable in any temperatures. In some schools, students are asked to take the school uniform of a certain color. The main colors of the school uniform are blue, green, burgundy, gray, brown and black. Blouses should be plain, preferably white or pastel colors. A skirt can be on one hand above the knee. Shoes should be on a small steady heel (maximum – 5 cm). High heels are not allowed. The hairstyle should also be appropriate. As a rule, tops opening the abdomen, as well as low-set pants are prohibited in schools. Boys can wear a jacket, trousers, vest, shirt and tie or bow-tie. A school jacket should be comfortable, because a student has to wear it every day. For girls, the school dress code can be diluted with various models of skirts and dresses that allow making stylish sets without breaking strict rules. Checked skirts are also popular among students in the green-blue or red tones. They look good with waistcoats and cardigans made of cotton or cashmere. Even if a child refuses to wear a school uniform, but according to the rules of the school, he/she is obliged to do it, it is always possible to dilute it with a variety of accessories.
Thousands of articles, hundreds of broadcasts on television and radio, but there is no definite answer to the question whether the school uniform is necessary. In anticipation of every new school year, this theme is repeatedly raised in completely different circles ranging from teachers and parents, who are often dissatisfied with modern clothes of their students and children, and ending with students, who cannot get used to the strict shirts and pants. “Fifty-six percent of parents either strongly favored or favored the use of school uniforms in public schools” (West, Tidwell, Bomba & Elmore, 1999). The main argument of psychologists for the introduction of the school uniform is discipline. The main argument against is infringement of the rights of children.
School uniform is a casual form of clothes for students during their time in schools and at official school activities outside schools. The school uniform in the modern world is used in two cases. In the first case, individual schools and universities are introduced it as a symbol of elitism and belonging to the upper stratum of society. It is usually done on a scale of one elite school. This school uniform is usually very expensive, beautiful and really marks children out their peers. In the second case, it is introduced as a universal element of school clothes with the aim to equalize all children.
Currently, principals and teachers are considered the main followers of the school uniform. On the one hand, it will help reduce the difference in the financial position among schoolchildren, and on the other, instill in the younger generation the good taste. However, is not quite true.