Concerns on attire discrimination arise after DepEd makes uniforms optional

July 19, 2022 - 3:40 PM
Students seated on chairs with plastic barriers attend a class as several schools in the Philippines' capital reopen for the first time since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 6, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte’s pronouncements on July 18 making school uniforms optional for school year 2022 to 2023 earned mixed reactions from social media users.

Duterte said that making uniforms non-mandatory is meant to ease the financial burden on students’ families impacted by “increasing prices and economic losses” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She added that learners were also not required to wear school uniforms prior to the pandemic, pertaining to DepEd Order No. 065, s. 2010.

The order states that school uniforms shall not be required in public schools, but “students with existing uniforms may continue using these uniforms, if they so desire, to avoid incurring additional costs for new attire.” 

Filipinos took to social media to air their concerns about the absence of a school uniform in schools. 

Twitter user @AltABSCBN said that they preferred school uniforms to civilian clothing. “School uniform is economical. Removing that is actually anti-poor.”

GMA Network’s talk show “Unang Hirit” asked social media users through a Twitter poll whether they were in favor of making school uniforms optional. 

Of the 284 votes, 55.6% said they were not in favor of scrapping the wearing of uniforms and 44.4% said they were in favor.

Twitter user @pinkchers, however, pointed out that students and parents would still have the option to wear school uniforms. “Ang sabi “it is not strictly required to wear school uniform” ibig sabihin nasa inyo (desisyon niyo) kung “magsusuot kayo ng uniform or hindi”. Hindi naman sinabing bawal.”

Meanwhile, Twitter user @neurxticbixh questioned the timeliness of the policy, suggesting that students already had the option before to wear their uniform on certain days of the week: “I don’t know bakit pinagtutuunan yung ibang bagay not that I am invalidating itong uniform issue but I don’t know if it’s an issue kasi teachers can understand naman ih.”

The user added in a second tweet: “Parang band aid solution eme to sa mismong krisis ng edukasyon na mayroon tayo para mayroon na naman tayong isyung iisipin at malihis tayo sa pinakaproblema. Kawalan ng pondo, magulong sistema, mga batang hindi na natututo. This issue could be just a diversion tactic.

DepEd provides guidelines on what would constitute a “proper school attire” in lieu of a uniform through DepEd Order 46, s. 2008. The order lists suggested attires for elementary and secondary students, such as polo shirts for boys and dresses or blouses for girls. 

The order also states that “a student’s attire should not become a cause for discrimination, particularly for students belonging to a lower socio-economic status.” 

Duterte reiterated that the opening of classes will still take place on August 22, where schools have the option to hold face-to-face classes, blended or distance learning.

DepEd requires schools to transition to a five-day face-to-face setup by November 2.