Dress code blues

► For­eign­ers in Shang­hai share their opin­ions and ex­pe­ri­ences about school rules on ap­pear­ance

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - CITY PANORAMA - This story was writ­ten by Wu Yuchun based on a Global Times video.

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.”

Pho­tos: VCG and Yan Ming/GT

from From top: Si­mon from New Zealand; Francine and Aus­tralia; Iris from Switzer­land; Jürg, Ni­co­laj Julian from Switzer­land; Mayken from Bel­gium

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