Every adult in Turkey remembers hearing angry remarks from a school principal or teacher for their failure to comply with the school’s dress code — perhaps a boy forgot his tie at home or a girl did not style her hair correctly or wore the wrong colour socks.

The next generation of adults is unlikely to have such memories as the nationwide school uniform requirement for primary, middle and high school students has been removed. In what came as a landmark move, Turkey’s Education Ministry has granted freedom to students to select their own outfits. The new regulation, published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday, will come into effect with the 2013-2014 academic year.

The regulation also lifted the headscarf ban for imam-hatip schools, though the ban will continue in other schools. Students in middle and high school will be permitted to wear headscarves only during elective courses on the Quran, according to the new regulations.

“This is a promising reform with regards to the democratization and civilianization of education,” said Gürkan Avcı, head of the Democratic Educators’ Union (DES), on the elimination of school uniforms.

“This practice was the legacy of the Sept. 12,

1980 military coup. Without allowing our teachers and students to be free, we cannot save our education system from the consequences of the pressure, rituals, dogmas and practices of the Cold War era. We want our teachers and students to come to school in colorful clothes and to turn schools into flower gardens. We want free schools and a democratic education system,” Avcı told Today’s Zaman.


Although claims have been made that the removal of the school uniform requirement will make social and economic differences among students more visible, Avcı believes such claims are subjective and unrealistic. He explained that these differences are already visible in the current system as cheap versus expensive uniforms and shoes or accessories such as watches worn by students tell much about their families’ economic situations.

During a visit to Spain on Tuesday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan commented on the new school dress code regulations, saying he does not expect everyone to support the move but that the government made it because there was a problem.

“Let everyone dress their children in the way they see fit, in a way they can afford,” he said.

Erdoğan noted that school uniforms had been a subject of much debate in the country for years and that the government took the step to address this issue and public demand in-line with the results of public surveys on the issue.

Education Ministry Undersecretary Emin Zararsız told the Anatolia news agency on Tuesday that if students want to, they can continue to wear their uniforms as there will be no ban to this effect.

“We are repealing the idea of having a certain type of attire at schools,” he said, but clarified that the new regulation gives students controlled freedom as there are still some restrictions on clothing students can wear.

According to the new regulation, students will be able to dress in everyday attire, but the ministry has included a new set of rules on school dress code policy, which prohibits clothing that is transparent or too form-fitting, such as leggings. Students will also not be allowed to wear clothing that is sleeveless or that features political symbols, shapes or writing.

Mustafa Ecevit, an official for the Education Personnel Union (Eğitim-Sen), also voiced his support for the government’s move, saying that the practice of school uniforms was even used to impose pressure on students for even not adhering to a single hairstyle.

According to Ecevit, class differences were already obvious when students wore uniforms. “So, I support elimination of the school uniform requirement,” he reiterated.

According to Öznur Simav, a pedagogue, there are both advantages of disadvantages to removing compulsory school uniforms.

“Students may want to wear clothes by popular brands. In the socio-economic aspect, this could lead to a problem for students whose families cannot afford to buy such clothes. However, students who don’t care about expensive clothes may feel more comfortable in casual clothes and be able to concentrate more easily on their lessons. Yet, if a student compares him or herself to friends of another social and economic background, this may lead to a self-esteem problem. However, this will not be a problem for self-confident students,” Simav explained.

Parents have also had mixed reactions to the change. While some have applauded the move for giving students freedom to choose what they wear, others say they are against this because it will put added pressure on parents and children.

Rabia Kızılkaya, a mother whose son and daughter are primary and high school students at public schools in İstanbul, told Today’s Zaman that she is uneasy with the move because she has concerns it could lead to pressure on parents to buy more clothes for their children to be able to send them to school with different clothing each day.

“This will be a problem for families that cannot afford to buy a lot of clothing,” she said.

She added that it would have been better if uniforms had been kept but the need to wear certain accessories, such as ties, had been removed as students would be more comfortable without ties.

Nevin Korkmaz said using school uniforms to minimize class differences wasn’t a good enough reason, noting: “I think instead of making every child look the same, we should teach our children that one’s worth is not decided by how expensive one’s clothes are. Also, there are people with different purchasing powers in the world and I don’t see the sense in preventing children from seeing this part of real life.”

Source Zaman.

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