BANGKOK — Public schools across the country continue to impose an old, abolished dress code that forces students to wear their hair short, activists said Thursday.
At a small gathering held at the education minister, five students activists said the outdated rule is still enforced even though it was repealed 45 years ago. The campaigners urge schools to respect the current regulation, which allows students to grow out their hair.
The activists also cut their hair in a symbolic protest. “The hair we trimmed represents students across the country that are being treated unfairly by their teachers,” one of them said.
The current rule allows students to wear long hair. For male students, the hair must not exceed the hairline for male students, while female students must tie their hair properly.
Education perm-sec Prasert Boonruang acknowledged that many state-run schools still blatantly flaunt the rule, even though the ministry affirmed the new haircut regulation just four months ago.
The official said he will issue a letter to schools across the country stressing to them about the new rule. He added that some establishments may still enforce the old regulation because they have misinterpreted it.
“Some schools might have found that the 2020 rule is the same as the previous ones,” Prasert said. “It [the current regulation] allows more freedom, but doesn’t mean a complete freedom for students.”
The rule mandating a crew cut for boys and pudding-bowl bob for girls in public schools was imposed in 1972 by a military government under Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn.
Although it was formally repealed just three years later, in 1975, the practice is still enforced nationwide to this day. The government issued a similar order in 2013, which was likewise ignored.
One of the schools that stick to the old rule rather than the current ministry regulation is Satri Si Nan School in Nan province. The school director said the strict hairstyle code still applies, though a referendum will be held soon to seek students’ opinions on it.
“It’s an old school with a very long history, so changes can’t be made immediately,” Sanong Konsombat said. “I have seen the new rule and I agree with it. However, we have to let students decide whether to adopt it or not.”
It is not uncommon for schools to ignore the government’s policies and enforce school dress codes and haircuts – often in a rough and summarily manner.
In 2019, a school in Chanthaburi province issued an order banning schoolgirls from wearing fringes to prevent them from “imitating K-pop stars.”