Express press service
BENGALURU: There are two different ways to look at a secular approach: a law that applies to everyone, despite diversity; or equal freedom for all to respect this same diversity. The current issue of school uniforms falls under this dilemma – one uniform for all students in a particular school, or allowing students to wear whatever they want within their socio-cultural boundaries.
With the issue of uniforms gaining media attention over the past few months, it has become essential to understand where exactly the idea of school uniforms came from. The focal point of this will be the Karnataka Education Act of 1983, specifically Section 133(2), which has been cited many times to refer to uniforms or dress code in educational institutions by the government from Karnataka.
However, the law itself does not mandate any type of dress code or uniform, with educator KE Radhakrishna claiming that uniforms became popular in Indian schools three to four decades ago. “The purpose of uniforms and the reason why they were introduced was to have a sense of different identities. It was initially used by private schools to distinguish themselves from each other and to organize qualitative and quantitative competition,” said Radhakrishna told TNIE.
According to him, the uniform has gradually become both a status symbol in schools and an equalizer to prevent poorer students from being targeted because of their economic status. Following this, public schools also began to adopt uniforms, both to act as an equalizer and also to compete with private schools. In his experience as a faculty member at Seshadripuram College, and later as a principal, he says dress codes were never enforced.
United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) education specialist Sheshagiri KM Rao echoes similar views saying that when he was a student at UP, uniforms and dress codes were not the norm, being a relatively new aspect of education in Karnataka. “There are exceptions, however, for minority institutions, where the right to practice their religion in the educational institutions they run is a constitutionally protected right,” he said, citing his experience as a student at Baldwin Boys High School, run by the Methodist Church in India.
However, a public school, Rao says, is considered a secular space. “This can be interpreted in two ways – either by removing all religious symbols in schools to ensure complete uniformity, or by allowing students to wear clothing that is not considered indecent, as a secular school should not concern about a student’s religious practices unless it is considered offensive to other students in terms of indecency,” Rao said. Additionally, he said that in his experience as a specialist, he had visited thousands of public schools where images of gods of learning were displayed, saying it had always been common practice.
Radhakrishna said he was in favor of removing the uniforms as their purpose had been corrupted over the years. “The uniform was introduced with good intentions, it was a symbol of preventing caste disparity and establishing equality in schools. It later became a status symbol, but now it is become an instrument that politically unstable individuals can take advantage of. He added that the need for uniforms has also diminished, saying they were needed to ensure equality 40 years ago, but India had come a long path in terms of access to education, which is no longer seen as a status symbol. Both educators agreed that there must be a minimum guideline to promote decent clothing in educational institutions, but the need for uniforms is long gone.
Citing the 1992 case that led to Article 21(A), which declares the education of children between the ages of 6 and 14 to be a fundamental right, Sheshagiri Rao argues that the Supreme Court equated the right to education in the right to life. “The court said that the right to education is nothing less than the right to life and that failure to guarantee it would lead to a limitation of future prospects which would seriously affect the quality of life” , did he declare.
Several education experts have pointed out that uniforms may be mandatory in schools up to grade 10 and removed in later years to allow students to transition into dress cultures for various careers where uniforms are not mandatory.
“Many private educational institutions have discretion in deciding and prescribing uniforms, and students and parents are aware of the uniform rule at the time of admissions,” says one academic, who does not want to be named. “Thus, if wearing a particular uniform poses a problem for them because of social or cultural factors, they are free to be admitted to an institution that does not impose the wearing of
Pointing to examples where uniforms are used in other sections of society, Radhakrishna said: “Uniforms are used by defense personnel or police to establish identity, senior ranks in companies may have a dress code , but people, including civil servants, do not wear uniforms. .”
- A sense of community among students, staff and parents.
- Improved discipline and concentration.
- Instills a work environment mindset that separates home and school life.
- Reduce the distraction of wearing the latest fashionable brands.
- Places students on an equal footing
- Research conducted by David L Brunsma, a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, on the benefits of wearing uniforms in schools/universities found that they were not effective in reaching the expected results to be achieved.
- No noticeable increase in academic focus among students wearing uniforms, as believed.
- No noticeable balance of social status separating students.
- No noticeable improvement in school results.
- On the contrary, they are associated with a detrimental effect on reading achievement, Brunsma’s research has shown.
STATUS IN DIFFERENT STATES
- Uniform codes across India have remained more or less the same, with each state having its respective education laws
- Politics appears to have seeped into the development of uniform codes in Rajasthan, as the then BJP-led government mandated uniforms to be brown in 2018, and the now Congress-led government changed them to gray dark and blue from the next academic year.
- With the reopening of schools, Goa has abolished the compulsory uniform, forcing the authorities not to insist on the wearing of uniforms in schools.
- In states like Odisha and West Bengal, school uniforms are compulsory as they help reduce the rate of social strife. The Odisha government has also provided uniforms for students in grades 1 to 8.
- A school in Kerala recently came under fire after it decided to introduce “unisex” uniforms, with girls wearing trousers.
What Karnataka Law Says
The state government on February 5 issued an order “invoking Section 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act 1983, which stipulates that a uniform style of clothing must be worn compulsorily. The direction of the private school can choose a uniform of its choice. The ordinance also stipulated that in colleges under the Board of Pre-University Education of Karnataka, the dress code prescribed by the College Development Committee or the Administrative Oversight Committee should be adhered to. If the administration does not set a dress code, clothes that do not threaten equality, unity and public order must be worn.
Under Section 133 of the Act, the government reserves the right to issue appropriate instructions to schools and colleges to ensure the maintenance of public order.
In accordance with the rules and notifications under the Karnataka Education Act 1983, each recognized educational institution may specify its own set of uniforms. This uniform, once specified, cannot be changed within five years. Notice must be provided to change uniforms. Purchasing uniforms and books from school or a store etc., and sewing suggested by school authorities, will be an option for students and parents.