School girl wearing a uniform, Source: Depositphotos

In France: Abayas out, school uniforms in?

In France: Abayas out, school uniforms in?

Can any of this fix the country’s education system?

The first day of school in France, yesterday, expectedly also brought in the first conflicts regarding the wearing of the traditional Islamic robe, which was banned a couple of weeks ago by the education minister Gabriel Attal.

Reportedly, some 67 girls were refused access to the school premises and sent home after turning up dressed in abayas. That event has flared a debate about the utility of playing ‘fashion police’ on the part of the government.

Mr. Attal has now come up with a new, though admittedly old, idea of reintroducing school uniforms for everyone in a bid to completely erase social differences between students in an ultimate expression of secularity (laicité). This proposal, however, has not done much to bridge the cleavages in French society and has instead added a new dimension to the ongoing debate.

Schools can volunteer for a trial phase

School uniforms were defended several months ago as a viable option to consider by no other than the First Lady of France, Brigitte Macron who, speaking to Le Parisien, said that the schoolwear “erases differences, and saves time - it's time-consuming to choose how to dress in the morning - and money - compared to brands".

She herself wore a uniform as a student and recalled that she had not had an issue with it. School uniforms used to be compulsory until 1968 when liberalizing winds brought in social freedoms for the country’s youth.

Since then, the subject has been a recurring topic for debate among political parties on questions, such as discipline, social differences and individual freedom of expression.

Minister Attal said that he will soon provide a schedule for this autumn for a trial period for school uniforms in public schools. The schools will be able to volunteer as part of the pilot project.



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