Uniforms in university turn adults into mere children

Published: October 15, 2013

Uniforms make everyone look alike, killing the concept of education which thrives on individuality.

There isn’t nearly enough harm being done by making our students think alike; we need them to look alike as well – to iron out every last lump, wrinkle and kink of individuality in them, leaving a monochrome sheet with every thread being exactly like the other.

Uniforms in schools and colleges are a vestige of a past that valued military-style automaticity as the only true form of discipline. Some people may think that it is a good idea to have every future lawyer, playwright, cardiologist and sculptor dress up in a uniform and march into the assembly ground like a miniature soldier. But I don’t.

We all nod vehemently to the idea of an ‘educated Pakistan’, but bear incredibly twisted views of what education is.

Education is not just the memorisation of Quaid’s fourteen points. Education is the ability of a boy in a Sindhi topi, and a girl in an Evanescence T-shirt, to learn to interact with one another without being awkward and insensitive. Uniforms are both the symbolic and practical death of that mission.

In schools, we need children to be able to freely express themselves (within the bounds of decency) and witness the consequences of their decisions as they unfold. The process of learning includes a student asking her classmate why she always wears a headscarf on her head, and increasing her understanding of a culture other than her own.

Proponents of uniforms frequently argue that if the requirement is rescinded, the ordinarily-dressed poor students’ self-esteem would be dented by the richer students strutting around in expensive clothing.

You cannot keep the less fortunate students forever in the dark about what their family’s financial status is compared to the rest of the country. These are ground realities they have to simply learn how to cope with. Likewise, a rich student needs to know how blessed he is, and not think of himself as an exceptional martyr for not getting his mitts on the latest iPhone. To pretend that these financial divides do not exist benefits absolutely no one.

Another baseless concern is that the students would become too obsessed with what to wear, and cannot pay the required amount of attention to learning. This fear is borne of the concept that ‘choice’ is too much of a burden, and the institutions do their students a favour by making sartorial choices on their behalf.

If only these institutions were as magnanimous with lunches, and allowed only stale bread to be sold in canteens and cafeterias. Imagine all the time and brain-power it’d save those indecisive students!

Scrapping uniforms isn’t some mad, social-engineering experiment that I suggest we try out. Most schools in the developed world do not have uniforms, and for excellent reasons.

Free expression is not indiscipline. Our educational institutions need to allow students the room for self-exploration, and to learn from their interactive experiences. Stop expecting them to look and act the same because, spoiler alert, they’re a collection of individuals and not a uniform mass.


Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    Full of baseless and exaggerated anti uniform blog post. There is hardly anything there to debate.Recommend

  • mak

    it’s radiculous.uniform teaches unity and equality.i suggest to impose uniform and dress code in universities also.Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    There is a huge difference in “acting uniformly” and “dressing uniformly”
    If someone can’t understand this even, what can one say further?Recommend

  • Parvez

    Brilliant……….you have said it all.
    The people who insist upon and have implemented this rigid system that will not allow ‘ out-of-the-box ‘ thinking are those who themselves have had limited exposure but firmly believe that if education in its true sense is allowed to the masses, then their hold on power would disappear. The irony is that most likely they have their children safely studying abroad.Recommend

  • Katarina

    Uniforms in the university is really a strange concept. The students are adults and they need to learn how to dress instead of using some silly uniform.Recommend

  • Batman

    this blog post does not even specify whether the writer is talking about secondary schools or universities (as the title suggests). most “schools” in Pakistan impose uniforms whereas at university level you are allowed to wear whatever you want!! please be clear as to which levels within the educational institutions you are talking about to create room for further debate on this subjectRecommend

  • Anum

    Sometimes this same so-called freedom of expression can become a reason to torture a particular student because they fail to wear, or cannot afford stylish clothes, or even dress differently from the norm. Bottom point, there are other ways to express individuality apart from clothes.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Says the communist.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Fitting reply to that other blog. No one wants to be part of the herd.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Beautifully expressed Faraz Talat ! Great read :)Recommend

  • Okay …

    What is your [ & Dr.Faraz Talat’s ] opinion about students of nursing colleges wearing uniforms ? (If they can,how’s it different from any other college student in uniform/adhering to a dress code) It’s not because the nurses are part of Hitler’s Germany …or think like a herd …

  • Neutral

    I agree with Mr.Qureshi’s point.
    I was a little taken aback to see how many were against the lady author of the pro-uniform blog.
    Personally,I think,this being a developing country,uniforms are important in school to keep poorer children from being self conscious-I did read what Faraz wrote about it-but,little children are too small to be shouldering the burden of inferiority complexes..let them focus their tender minds in studying/playing & not on social differences,which they will figure out by 15-18 anyway.
    Having changed many schools as an army kid,I’ve seen scores of kids,both in schools & med.school,feeling judged for their clothes,not only by better off classmates,but also the staff.
    College & university don’t need uniforms-but dress codes are usual-like no jeans for boys etc..(some hostel kids do,dress inappropriately to college,miles away from parental control )
    Even my hospital has a dress code for doctors-everyone has to adhere to it.
    [ Bizarrely,my friend’s hospital(a cutting edge corporate place ) has a uniform for doctors-even the senior most American board qualified consultants who’re 60,adhere to it-while no one,liked it at first-but once people got used to it-they find it a huge relief-takes seconds to get dressed (Faraz-this is told to me by those uniformed doctors)-this is however,an exceptional story-I barely know any hospitals that have uniforms for doctors]
    What I mean is,I’m not pro-uniform, but,I don’t think it’s a stifler of freedom of expression/social evil etc…it’s extremely unfashionable & plain boring …that’s all..


  • Unknown

    why doctors wear white coat? Why players need same uniform? Author have no answer for that. Just twisted and confused arguments.Recommend

  • Quratulain Thalho

    Uniform or no uniform.. There should be a proper education system, BAS!Recommend

  • Chona

    Judging by this philosophy…The Army men are equal to Class One primary schoolers for their whole life…as they are always in uniform or prescribed attire even in casual meetings…..!!!!!!
    This blog can be taken as personal opinion….but it is not convincing to force home the point of no need for uniform……remember every culture every religion teaches discipline….and uniform is part of discipline….no harm in wearing uniform if it makes you feel disciplined….Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    The sooner this country abandons it’s ‘Awami Suit’ group think tribal mentality, the better. It’s no wonder that as a nation we’re about as free thinking and as creative as a stumbling zombie. Can’t see it happening any time soon though.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Doctors wearing white coats, or construction workers wearing hard, yellow hats, have practical reasons.

    A white coat keep your clothes clean (yes, doctors in hospitals wear regular clothes underneath their lab coats) and makes it easier for people to identify you during a medical emergency, and hard hats protect you from head injury.

    School uniforms have no practical reason. That’s the reason many schools in the developed world function without uniforms, and thus far, have not caused the social structure to collapse.Recommend

  • unbelievable

    Your old enough to pay for your own education your old enough to dress how you please. Universities are paid to educate you – not be custodians of some dress code.Recommend