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Do school uniforms actually help students do better?

Studies in the UK suggest that quality school uniforms enhance learning but not all experts agree with this

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Sunaina Vohra
Gulf News

Dubai: The issue of school uniforms and its many advantages for a holistic academic experience is not new, with many studies claiming that good quality uniforms aid in an enhanced learning experience for children, the topic continues to be relevant. Detractors however dismiss any connection between quality of school uniforms and student performance.

Gulf News asked Sunaina Vohra, Youth & Family Life Coach, Athena Life Coaching to throw more light on this.

Studies [particularly in the UK] state that wearing good quality uniforms actually helps students perform better.

Uniforms per se are a great equaliser in any institution. From schools to hospitals, students to doctors, when the outer appearance is the same — the focus of the wearer is on the subject at hand and they are not distracted by what others are wearing.

Uniforms for students eliminate to a very large extent any socioeconomic divide that might otherwise crop up.

A good quality uniform instils a sense of belonging and pride in the child’s mind.

Children’s self-confidence can be enhanced when they are well-dressed in their school uniforms.

In the short term, as stated above, uniforms are a great leveller and can help a children from a less privileged background feel equal to their peers and confident in school.

Imagine the reverse: the time that could potentially be wasted with younger kids throwing tantrums about wanting to wear their favourite outfit to school everyday and older kids wasting precious study time deciding and buying what they would want to wear at school.

[Coming to the question of performance], I think the school uniform is important — but I do not think that it plays a huge role in the academic progress of a child. If a soldier had one button missing on his uniform, I don’t think he would be distracted from his duties. In school uniforms, comfort is important but definitely [it does] not make or break the focus a child who is driven to excel in academics.

Critics of the theory say quality of school uniforms has no bearing on academic performance.

More than the “quality” of the uniform, I would lean towards what the uniform consists of. I know some schools insist on a blazer — which in this part of the world given the heat might not be the best thing to wear in the hotter months.

On the other hand, in cooler climates, [a blazer] would not only make the student look and feel good but also protect them from the elements.

Colour also can play a big part. When we see students dressed in dull or dark colours, I think it can have a negative impact on the child’s pysche.

These subtle differences do matter.

White shirts used as a part of the school uniform inculcate a sense of responsibility in the child — making sure that he/she keeps it clean, a necessary life skill. On the other hand, dull or dark colours, have a negative impact.

How would a poor quality uniform affect a student?

If the uniforms do not do their job of making the child feel comfortable, equal and as privileged as those around them, then there is a need for change. Just as a doctor wears his plain white coat — but commands respect for his profession — the school uniform inculcates a sense of dignity and pride in the student for the school/institution he/she belongs to. A uniform is not a fashion statement but a message of belonging and pride.

Can poorly stitched uniforms or uncomfortable fabrics distract children from concentrating in class?

Yes, if a child is uncomfortable, it can distract him.
 

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