Friday, November 20, 2009

Are school uniforms useful?

Urban schools are often tempted to impose school uniforms on the presumption that this resolves some discipline problems linked to clothing and gangs. The counterpart of this supposed benefit is that those uniforms are costly. Thus, the improvement in discipline better be worth it, including indirect effects on student performance.

Scott Imberman and Elisabetta Gentile look at a school district where some schools have adopted uniforms. And it turns out the gains are minimal: none in elementary school, and only slight improvements in attendance and language skills in higher grades. And these small positive impacts are limited to female students. Is this worth the cost of the uniforms? I do not think so.


James Reade said...

There is another element to school uniforms not mentioned here, that is the social element: Less pressure is put on kids from poor and less wealthy families to look as good as those from better off families if kids are in uniform.

Very hard to measure that, and it certainly should not be ignored, as I think it all too readily is in analyses like these...

Anonymous said...

I agree with James Reade. Further to this, school uniforms in fact save money on wear and tear of normal clothes which last longer due to not being work daily.

Parents are also under less pressure to constantly buy their kids new clothes for school in order to keep up with latest fashion trends.

Anonymous said...

As a parent who had to buy school uniforms for his children, I sincerely doubt I have saved in clothing expenses. These uniforms are very expensive, I think in large part because of the monopoly granted by the school to a supplier.

James Reade said...

I sincerely doubt, equally, that you did not save expense by your child being in a uniformed school.

True, you had to fork out for that uniform.

But how does the cost of the uniform (and maybe two sets of it), compare to a wardrobe of the latest designer clothing, different outfits for each day of the week, maybe more, in order that your child "fits in"?

I don't think there's much comparison here, and for the parents that don't fork this out, there is the cost to the child of being shunned and unpopular based on something as pathetic as their clothes. So we also have plenty of mentally unstable people with potentially great costs in the future in mental health provision, etc.