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To Wear or Not to Wear the Uniform?

June, 2006
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  After living in Beijing for 12 years, Marina Mihalkov will for the first time not have to worry about what to wear to school. ThIMG_2737e Year 10 student at  the Harrow International School Beijing will now be required to wear a uniform every day.

   “After a few days when you get used to it, everything will be all right,” said Mihalkov, who used to study at the French School where there are no school uniforms. “If without the tie, I might like it better.”  

  The Harrow hat, shirt, tie, blazer, skirt or trousers are the standard school uniform at the Harrow International School Beijing. The school modeled its uniforms after the classic uniforms of Harrow School in London as well as those of its sister school in Bangkok.  

  IMG_0650 “The real Harrow hat only sits on top of the head so that you have to walk with the head straight up, otherwise the hat will fall off,’’ said David Dawes, head of mathematics at Harrow Beijing, who had been teaching at Harrow in London for 16 years.  

  "Harrow in London has allowed Harrow International School in Bangkok and Harrow International School Beijing to have the same uniform and same motto and hats. But here the tie is blue instead of black, the uniform is with a badge and the hat is deeper.”  

  Students only need to wear the straw hat on special occasions like school assemblies. However, the school hasn’t found a good straw hat maker in China yet to make the Harrow hat and still imports them from Thailand. 

  As a timeless tradition of British schools, the British School of Beijing (BSB) and Dulwich College Beijing (DCB) also have school uniforms since they opened in the capital. Some believe in the benefits of wearing school uniforms. Uniforms, for instance, can promote school pride as well as allow students to focus on their studies instead of trying to fit in with fashionable peers. But others prefer students to have more freedom in wearing their own clothes to school. 

  "Parents prefer to have school uniforms,” said Gilbard Honey-Jones, the headmaster of the British School of Beijing. “It makes the children look very smart, gives them identity as well as pride in the school. And the parents don’t have problems every morning with what the children have to wear. There is no longer a fashion show in the school, either.”IMG_1620 

  According to the headmaster, the BSB school uniform follows the style of the uniform of the British School in Madrid, which is also a school of King’s Group. 

  "At the British School in Madrid, students wear shirts and ties all year,” he said. “We made some changes to that and provide polo shirt for our students instead.”  

  Dulwich students in Year 2 and below have school uniforms of the exact colour and style as those in Dulwich College London. From Year 2 onwards, Dulwich College London is for boys only, so DCB is unable to adopt their uniform.   Still, the school embraced the formal uniform for the children to wear on special occasions and at assemblies on Thursdays. Meanwhile, a smart casual uniform is provided to the students in the school colours of blue and red. Friends of Dulwich College Beijing (FoDB) Uniform Committee, the parent group at DCB, collects and reviews feedback received on the uniform from parents and students for possible improvement.

  For the non-British schools, uniforms are also an important part of the school.  

  Yew Chung International School of Beijing has its uniforms since more than 10 years ago. Nick Combes, the co-principal of the school, believes the main reason for Yew Chung to promote uniforms for all its students is as the word says: “Uniform is uniformity.” By having a uniform, there is a standard dress code for the whole school which fosters a sense of unity.   

  "Our parents particularly like our uniforms because it promotes a sense of orderliness and certain amount of discipline,” said Combes. “Many of them were growing up wearing uniforms at school, too.” 

  As the design has been improved every year so as to make it more presentable, attractive and durable, the principal hopes students will enjoy wearing it more. 

  Dawn Vermilya, director of Daystar Academy, wants their school uniforms to be something with a Chinese style, though not too traditional, as it is a bilingual school. Meanwhile, the uniforms should be comfortable and flexible so that the children can do sports wearing it. 

  The inspiration for the school uniform of the Family Learning House was also a fusion of East and West. IMG_5207 

  “It is very important for us to be sensitive to Chinese culture and at the same time represent our Western families,” said principal Karyn Robarts. The principal herself designed the uniforms, trying to make the boy’s uniform look quite noble and gentleman-like while the girls’ uniform used the elements of Chinese qipao at the top. She deliberately put the Chinese knot button on the uniforms to let children practice their skills on oIMG_2885pening and closing it, which is sometimes a bit complicated.   The uniforms are all blue, the colour of the school logo. Robarts also thinks it is a practical colour for young children who would be playing outside and getting dirty very quickly.

   “The children are aware that cleanliness is important in the classroom,” said the principal.   On Mondays, students at Beanstalk International Bilingual School (BIBS) all wear school uniforms, which look like a combination of European and Asian styles. “This is because there are students from European countries and also students from Asia,” said Satomi Yagi from Japan, who is a parent at the school. Altogether Yagi has made 8 styles of school uniforms for the children. Blue is the theme colour in her design. She also used different colours so as to give the children more choices, while she insists the formal school uniform should look clean and elegant. However, the majority of the students asked said they would very much prefer to wear their casual clothes as opposed to the school uniforms when they were asked what they would like to wear in school.

  BENEFITS OF UNIFORMS:

  • Uniform is a statement of pride in the school – a statement of belonging and of personal commitment by the individual.
  • Uniform is part of a school’s standards and values.
  • Uniform ensures there is no discrimination in terms of wealth, gender or race. The alternative of expensive, brand-name clothing may create peer pressure and segmentation.
  • Uniform is an aid to pupil security allowing the easy identification of intruders.
  • Students are prepared for employment in a world where corporate identity is important.
  • Uniform promotes safety in Science, Design and Technology and Physical Education
  • l Uniform is not against the freedom of the individual. In fact, by not wearing the uniform, students may feel more peer pressure to fit in with the popular and stylish crowd. We believe individuality can be expressed in many ways.
  • Uniform presents a positive image of our school to our community.
  • Uniform is important where pupils are representing the school or are outside the school on trips.
  • It actually gets children more focused on their work.
  • You can see the girls and boys stand up straight in their uniforms, making them very presentable.
  • Uniforms improve manners.

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By Xing Yangjian

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