Students at Elite Bangkok School to Ditch Uniforms – For Now

Soon a thing of the past? Bangkok Christian College students pose for a photo in their uniforms in 2014. Image: Fivemorningtalk / Facebook

BANGKOK — Starting Tuesday, students at an all-boys school in Bangkok will be able to leave their uniforms at home and come to class in the clothes they want – once a week.

Bangkok Christian College announced Monday that the new policy is part of an experiment to see whether dress codes – or the lack thereof – would affect students’ ability to study and socialize.

“We’ve been discussing this for more than 10 years,” school director Suphakit Jitklongsub said. “There are studies from overseas that wearing private clothes can reduce pressure and encourage students to be more expressive.”

The experiment is set to repeat every Tuesday for a full semester, after which officials will assess the impact. The new policy applies to all Mathayom-level grades, he added. Supakit said some alumni have opposed the change but he stressed that they are a minority.

Acceptable clothing includes long-sleeve shirts and T-shirts, polo shirts, denim jackets and shorts. Tank tops are forbidden.

Uniforms are enforced in schools across Thailand, including even the “international schools” where Thai and foreign students follow non-Thai standard curricula. Education officials have long argued that uniforms are necessary to maintain order and promote equality, whereas critics say they promote conformity and stunt creativity.

Student activist leader Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who has called for uniforms to be abolished since his high school years, welcomed the news.

“I’m happy to see that such thing could happen in this era,” Netiwit, who now studies at Chulalongkorn University, said in an interview. “I didn’t know what changes would come this fast.”

The Sathorn Road campus of Bangkok Christian College – the country’s first private school – isn’t the first to come up with the groundbreaking policy, but it’s the highest-profile institution to take it as far. Satit Thammasat Secondary School started allowing its students to wear private clothing in 2014 but still mandated them every Monday and Thursday.

Chalam Attatham, a government education official overseeing private schools, said Bangkok Christian College is free to make its own policies, though he also urged the school to monitor the consequences of the new approach for any possible negative effects.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly asserted that the uniform-optional policy was planned for every school day through the semester. In fact, it is only on Tuesdays for the duration of the current term.