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Students shed their school uniforms in Shanghai
( 2004-01-01 15:29) (Eastday.com)

The days of Shanghai school children wandering to class in matching uniforms could soon come to an end as a growing number of schools in the city give up, or relax, their dress codes.

When teachers at Dong'er High School in downtown Xuhui District announced that students no longer need to wear school uniforms from Tuesday to Friday, the whole classroom erupted with joyful cheers.

"Finally we are free of these ugly and unfit uniforms," said You Tingting, a student at Dong'er.

Imitating the practice of foreign schools, Shanghai first released two sets of school uniforms in 1993. Over the following decade, almost every young student in the city was expected to wear a green or blue cotton track suit to class every day.

"Neat and tidy uniforms make students look more impressive and vigorous," said Chen Jun, a local high school official who favors the dress codes.

"Uniformed clothing also promoted group spirit, which overshadows the family background of individual students," said Hu Zhengfang, an official with another high school.

Many educators, both in China and abroad, argue that uniforms improve the learning environment in a class because poorer students aren't looked down upon for wearing shabby clothes.

Many students, however, want the chance to choose their own dressing style while parents complain the uniforms are too expensive and often poorly made.

"It's now a world for creativity and personality. How can everybody, especially youngsters, be forced to be dressed the same," asked You.

"School uniforms are often of poor quality. They don't fit well, the material shrinks and the schools never change the style, so it is impossible for children to wear them all the time," said Liu Ying, You's mother.

An average school uniform - including a jacket, pants and a shirt - costs some 150 yuan (US$18) and many schools require students to buy several special outfits for important ceremonies and sporting events.

Liu says she understands the advantages of school uniforms, but the cost is a real burden to many parents.

One group of students who might want to keep the dress codes are those studying at the city's top schools, who say they are proud to showoff their uniforms and the school they represent.

"My biggest regret is that our uniforms aren't as good as those worn at foreign schools," said Fan Yi, a student at Caoyang No 2 Middle School, a top school in the city's Putuo District.

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