Dress code blues
► Foreigners in Shanghai share their opinions and experiences about school rules on appearance
An active uniform policy has been in effect in China for many decades. However, a debate over these dress codes has reached two extreme sides, either to completely remove the codes or to introduce new guidelines.
In China, elementary and secondary schools decide and implement their own designated dress codes. However, one school’s codes in particular has triggered anger among its students and parents. A high school in Central China’s Henan Province forced its students to cut their hair short before starting the new semester, otherwise they would be asked to drop out, Pear Video reported in August.
According to the school, they made this rule to unify its students. While most students opposed the rule, claiming, “cutting your hair short does not help your studies,” some compromised, as they agreed it is beneficial for creating a more serious study environment.
There are also many parents who agreed with the policy. “It looks livelier if all the students keep short hair. It is more military-like,” a parent told Pear Video. But as the news spread across the interwebs, many netizens considered the school’s behavior to be unreasonble. One netizen was curious about why the school focuses more on its students’ appearance than their quality of their education.
Do all Western countries have similar school rules for student dress codes? What is the consequence or punishment if students go against the rules? Is it necessary to have codes of appearance in school? The Global Times set out across Shanghai to ask these and other questions to foreigners living or traveling here.
Consequences and punishments
“We can’t wear short skirts,” said Mayken from Belgium. Similarly, Francine from Australia had the same dress code about the length restriction of their dresses. She pointed out that the dresses she wore needed to be at a certain length when she was kneeling down.
New Zealander Simon also had a dress code when he was at school, which was wearing suits. However, two young students from Switzerland, Nicolaj and Julian, said their school environment is very open and does not have any “ridiculous rules.” Jürg, the headmaster and teacher of their school, was also present during our interview and confirmed that their school environment is “very relaxing.”
Another young Switzerland student, Iris, agreed that there is no such rules in her school. But since school rules exist for good reasons, there is always a consequence or punishment toward any violation. "We have to pay 10 euros ($11.5) as a fine,” said Nicolaj when he spoke about the consequence of being late at his school.
According to Simon, the punishment for violating his school’s rules is copying" "lines (writing the same sentence multiple times on the blackboard) in order to remind them to do the right thing.
Mayken mentioned that if students forget to bring their textbooks to school, they will receive detention after school is let out. However, the penalty for smoking cigarettes is far more serious, as the students will be asked to drop out.
Most of our adult interviewees agreed with the need for dress codes in school, yet the teenagers mostly felt that students should have the right to wear what they want.
Francine said codes of appearance "instill some sort of semblance and orderliness," given that school is mainly about dealing with children. Enforcement of dress and groom-ing assist with successful operations of the school, she said.
In addition, Mayken said that students show respect to teachers if they dress properly But she did not agree with the guideline of the school in Henan where students are forced to have their hair cut short.
Nicolaj said that students should have the right to choose their own hairstyle. His teacher added that “some basic rules" of appearance are reasonable.
Both Iris and Simon highlighted the importance of individuality and variety. In Iris’s opinion, the Henan rule is “ridiculous," as every student is different and should not be unified with an identical hairstyle. Simon said that humans are different from robots, “because of our freedom in doing what want.”
from From top: Simon from New Zealand; Francine and Australia; Iris from Switzerland; Jürg, Nicolaj Julian from Switzerland; Mayken from Belgium