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Casual clothes allowed at prestigious school

Jan 08. 2019
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By THE NATION

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SECONDARY students at the prestigious Bangkok Christian College left their uniforms at home and dressed casually for the first time yesterday.

The dressing-down kicked off a pilot project in which children are being allowed to wear casual clothes to express their individuality and creativity every Tuesday throughout this semester.

Head teacher Suphakit Jitklongsub said the project gave students the option to express themselves by wearing appropriate casual dress in an effort to make the school a happier place. 

It reflects a belief that people with differences can live in harmony together, he said.

If the scheme is shown to negatively affect students’ academic performance, it will be scrapped, he added.

Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, meanwhile, said he had been told the school’s move was part of research into student uniform. 

He viewed that the private school was entirely within its rights to implement such a scheme, which could also be cancelled if it produced a negative impact, as the school itself had agreed. 

Teerakiat said he also believed the move was only introduced after being discussed thoroughly with school administrators and parents, so he had no authority to judge its merits. 

Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec) secretary-general Chalam Attham said the school had reported it as being an experiment for research on student uniforms and had obtained approval for it from the school board and the parents. 

He said private schools had certain freedom to organise activities or implement changes as appropriate and this move was so far not seen as being in violation of any regulations. He also said student uniforms would remain on the Opec list of provided items for 15-year free education.

A Dek-D.com columnist going by the name of “Pi Latte”, meanwhile, noted that people had different opinions about allowing students to dress casually. Supporters of the new freedom called it a human right for students to choose what they wanted to wear and claimed such casual attire wouldn’t negatively affect their academic performances; opponents, however, thought it could lead to friction between those coming from different financial backgrounds. There were also many undecided about it, who said they didn’t object to allowing some leeway in what students wore but still preferred uniform as it was more convenient and didn’t require students or parents to have to think of what to wear to school.

The columnist said many schools had previously conducted similar pilot projects, such as one at Thammasart University’s demonstration school, which had received positive feedback. 

This begs the question, the columnist added: if the next restriction to be lifted is the decades-old student hairstyles – bob cuts for girls and short-back-and sides for boys – and this also is shown to have no impact on academic performance, it could lead to the lifting of other barriers, even including the removal of students from classrooms entirely. 

Bangkok Christian College, the first private boys’ school in Thailand, was founded in 1852 by US Presbyterian missionaries with permission from His Majesty King Rama IV. 

The school now has about 5,000 students across 12 levels, and is popular among children of all faiths due to its strong academic reputation.

It was the country’s first school to introduce contemporary approaches to English language education, with both native English speakers and Thai teachers using English as the medium of instruction.

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