Viral photos of Thai students taking exams in traditional attire fuel ongoing uniform discussion

Photo: Facebook/ Peramintra Boonchom and Keem Phanthong
Photo: Facebook/ Peramintra Boonchom and Keem Phanthong

Facebook photos of several female Thai students decked out in full traditional Thai garb to take their mid-term exams have gone viral today — adding fuel to an ongoing national discussion about whether uniforms should continue to be required by law.

A Facebook post published yesterday morning by Keem Phanthong, a teacher at Prakhon Chai Pittayakhon School in Buriram Province’s Prakhon Chai district, shows a female student — wearing an Ayutthaya-era dress, complete with elaborate golden accessories — smiling from her dress. 

“Students dressing up a little bit to come take midterms,” he captions in his Facebook post that has so far been shared more than 400 times and re-published in multiple local media outlets. 

Another Facebook user commented on the post with their own photo of several more students wearing neon orange gowns.

Photo: Facebook/ Peramintra Boonchom
Photo: Facebook/ Peramintra Boonchom

The pictured students are apparently part of a Thai-country music band, Anurak Panthong, another teacher at the school, told Daily News. The students had a performance earlier that day and didn’t have time to change before their exams, he explained.

Though it wasn’t exactly proper protocol, the school’s administration excused the changeup in the routine because of the fame and recognition the band has brought to the school.

The cute photo-op is proving incredibly timely. School uniforms have been one of the hottest topics of discussion among Thai netizens since Bangkok Christian College — an elite all-boys school — implemented a new policy allowing students to ditch their uniforms every Tuesday, reported Workpoint.

Screenshot: Channel One
Students at Bangkok Christian College in casual wear. Screenshot: Channel One

According to school director Suphakit Jitklongsub, the policy is part of a six-week experiment to see whether dress codes affect the students’ ability to learn and socialize.

The move was met by mixed reviews from the public.

While many netizens happily welcomed this — hoping it will promote diversity and creativity — the policy was also met with shock and horror by many education officials and parents who believe uniforms are necessary to maintain order, discipline and equality.  

File:School children meditating.jpg
Typical Thai school uniforms. Photo: WikiCommmons/ Kochphon Onshawee

In Thailand, school uniforms are strictly compulsory for all students in both public and private schools — including colleges and universities. The Student Uniform Act of 2008 was created specifically to mandate this.

Any students who fail to wear uniforms without acceptable exemptions are liable to penalties determined by the Ministry of Education.

Exceptions to the uniform, however, are determined by individual school administrations, hence the wiggle room. Of course, just how much wiggle room they’ll get remains to be seen.

Just a day after students at Bangkok Christian College were allowed to go casual, the Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec) sent a letter asking the school to reconsider the policy.

Though he refused to back down so early into the “experiment,” school director Suphakit promised to pull the plug if it is shown to negatively interfere with students’ studies.

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