Sunday, September 22, 2019

Not so fast: school asked to review casual clothes experiment

Jan 09. 2019
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By THE NATION

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ONLY A DAY after students at prestigious Bangkok Christian College were allowed to wear casual clothes to class for the first time, the Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec) yesterday sent a letter asking the country’s first private boys’ school to reconsider whether such a move was appropriate.

Opec secretary-general Chalam Attham, although acknowledging the school’s previous explanation that the dressing-down was part of a six-week research project, said his office was concerned about students’ orderliness and discipline, the negative impact on some parents’ expenses and several possible issues related to Thai society in general.

Bangkok Christian College must discuss the pilot scheme with its school board and report the result of their discussion to the Opec as speedily as possible, Chalam said, pointing out that private schoolchildren’s dress code was still covered by the Student Uniform Act 2008. 

“Opec was told that it was part of research but school administrators and teachers, as well as the Education Ministry, need to look deeper into what impacts the down-dressing can create. If other private schools want to follow this example, they must also think this through,” said Chalam, who only the day before had said he believed the clothes experiment did not constitute a violation of any regulations.

Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, who had also said on Tuesday that the school was within its rights to implement this move, went further yesterday, saying he personally thought that the project shouldn’t be made an issue as it apparently had no effect on students’ academic performance. 

Teerakiat quoted a speech by King Rama VI, who had said that the purpose of a student uniform was to impose discipline and narrow social gaps. He also said the head teacher at Bangkok Christian College had acknowledged the benefits of requiring students to wear uniforms, hence the reason for casual clothing being allowed on only one day per week. In conclusion, Teerakiat said he recognised the private school’s good intentions and wouldn’t issue any instructions for them to halt the project.

On the other hand he said schools under the remit of the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) required students to wear uniforms – casual clothing was never allowed – as per existing rules.

Obec assistant secretary-general Amporn Pinasa agreed that allowing casual clothes at a private school, which falls under the Opec’s supervision, couldn’t be compared or applied to Obec’s public schools, which must adhere strictly to the Student Uniform Act 2008. 

That Act stipulates that public school students must wear a school uniform as per the Education Ministry’s standard and that if other clothing, such as casual or Thai traditional attire, were to be allowed, that change could only happen with the prior permission of the head of the respective provincial education office.

Bangkok Christian College is running its pilot project every Tuesday throughout this semester so that pupils can express their individuality and creativity.

It was first implemented on Tuesday, when it generated a public debate over its appropriateness, but head teacher Suphakit Jitklongsub pledged that if the scheme were shown to negatively affect students’ academic performance, it would be scrapped.

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