Chop Chop Chop Chop Chop Chop - not spared by The Sunday Times either.
(Published: Sunday Times, Nov 9, 2008)
MDIS should focus on education, not fashion
I read with interest last Thursday's report, 'No shorts, no dyed hair, no slippers...', on the dress code crackdown at the Management Development Institute of Singapore.
Educational institutions should focus on their main priority, which is education - not fashion policing.
The issue is not about letting students express themselves freely, but rather the idea that they can express themselves freely.
Education is not only about integration and institutionalisation, but also about empowering individuals who can uniquely contribute to the community.
The value in education lies in the cultivation and development of knowledge and of the individual's ability to make informed decisions and to question.
The institution will be doing itself and society a disservice by creating an environment where the idea of free expression is repressed.
I am against the idea of educational institutions producing buttoned-up, subservient individuals who conform only because of the threat of punishment.
Those driven by the desire to learn will not choose a school based on how well it polices the dress code.
Ultimately, educational institutions should not be moulded in the interests of their leaders or administrators, or according to their ideas of aesthetic decency.
As students are the major stakeholders in these institutions, they deserve greater say in the structure and relevance of these rules.
Ho Chi Sam
Never once have I mentioned MDIS, except when quoting the title of the article. The way the title of the article is structured, it seems like I'm directly addressing MDIS, but that is not the case. Here is the full version of the letter I wrote.
I read with interest the report ‘Dress Code Crackdown at MDIS’ (ST, Nov 6, 2008).
I strongly feel that educational institutions should focus on their main priority and core competency, which lies in the domain of education, and not authoritative fashion policing.
I must stress the argument is not about letting students expressing themselves freely, but about the idea and value that they can express themselves freely.
We must support this idea, and the social, cultural, political and legal infrastructure (not only economic) of our country should be developed to accommodate and cultivate it.
Education is not only about integration and institutionalisation, but also about empowering individuals who can uniquely contribute to the local or global community.
The value in education lies in the cultivation and development of knowledge and the individual’s ability to make informed decisions and also to question.
The educational institution will be doing itself and society a disservice by creating an environment where the idea of free and possibly unique expression is disincentivised, repressed and amputated with such regimentation.
On the one hand, we are bombarded with the rhetoric of the economic imperative in the drive to make Singapore a global city of the arts, a creative hub, etc., and anything that is associated with the good well-adjusted sense of change, creativity and innovation. On the other hand, our educational infrastructure is rigid and filled with such rules that impede the development of the properties and conditions necessary for such change.
At the same time, I condemn the strict dress codes and rules of dyed hair mentioned in the article. I am personally against the idea of educational institutions producing buttoned-up and subservient assembly-line cultural dopes who only conform because of the disincentive of punishment.
Individuals driven by the desire to learn or upgrade will not choose educational institutions based on how well these institutions police the dress code.
Ultimately, educational institutions should not be moulded in the interests of the leaders and administrators and their comfort-zoned ideas of aesthetical decency and presentability. As students are the major stakeholders in these institutions, they deserve a greater say in the structure and relevance of these rules.
Let the young find and mould their tradition rather than yoke the ideology of people who just happen to have lived before them.
Ho Chi Sam
For more references, read the following Straits Times article.