Uniform Regulations Loosened for Better or Worse?

Uniform Regulations Loosened for Better or Worse?
Photo Credit:uemura@Flickr CC BY 2.0

What you need to know

Uniform regulations are being loosened, but a certain industry is bracing itself while students rejoice.

Regulations on student uniforms and apparel have long been the object of debate in Taiwan. In recent years, students have started to protest and turned to Facebook to push for a ban on uniforms.

These calls were answered by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on May 20.

Amendments by the MOE stipulate that schools are no longer allowed to write down punishments meted out on students based on their apparel in their official record. The amendment was effective June 1.

Though restrictions have been loosened, the MOE says this does not mean that school authorities will cease to monitor what students wear to school. Schools are still allowed to set dress codes through public hearings, student votes, and any other democratic mechanisms — as long as no punishment goes on the students’ official records.

While students across the nation are rejoicing over the announcement, uniform manufacturers are bracing themselves.

Liao Ming-hsiu (廖敏秀) is the third-generation owner of Yingtai suit manufacturing company (盈泰被服), which has been producing uniforms for nearly 60 years. In an interview with The News Lens, Liao gave a run-down of how uniform manufacturers have been working with schools.

Since schools are treated as government institutions, public bids are held online before the beginning of each school year, she says. The schools choose the manufacturers they believe offer the best in terms of quality and price. Some bids ar made to ensure collaboration that can last for two to three school years.

Once the bid closes, the winner sends uniform samples to the schools for students to look at and place orders before the semester begins. The schools then compile the orders and send them to the company for manufacturing. Students have freedom in choosing which pieces they wish to purchase, in case they want to take over hand-me-downs from alumni.

Liao says the amendment will “definitely have an impact on the amount of orders they receive,” though she is unsure about the extent of that decrease. This will depend on the schools’ decision with regards to dress codes. For example, if schools decide that students still need to wear uniforms upon entering and leaving the school, then manufacturers might not be overly affected.

Liao says she doesn’t approve of the amendment, saying it will be difficult for schools to control their students.

“How will people know if you are a student of the school without a uniform?” she asks. “Anyone will be able to enter the schools.”

Students currently enjoy a free environment and are much more clever than students from her generation, Liao says, adding that she believes the quality of students has gone down with the gradually more open society.

“I still think the uniforms of the old days are better,” says Liao.

Online causes launched by students, such as Free Your Uniform (服儀自由學生陣線), are still pushing for the full freedom of students to decide how they dress.

Free Your Uniform told The News Lens that the MOE should ban all forms of punishment related to one's dressing preference.

The organization will continue to communicate with the MOE and school authorities, and hopes people understand that lifting dress codes doesn’t mean banning uniforms, but merely giving students the freedom to decide what they wish to wear to school.

Free Your Uniform says it hopes the MOE can help amend the contracts between the schools and uniform manufacturers. If there are companies that will suffer losses due to a breach of contract, the organization hopes the MOE can be responsible and provide necessary compensation.

“However, we do not think that the business interests of uniform manufacturers should be a factor in this discussion after the contracts have expired,” Free Your Uniform says.