Should baju kurungs be exclusive?

A school should never be obsessed over uniforms at the expense of the students’ education. Scott Ng in a commentary on Free Malaysia Today expresses:


We can’t seem to go through a week without some controversy or other to tickle our fancies or provoke our rage. Just as we are recovering from the brouhaha over the hugging and kissing at last weekend’s K-Pop concert, we are hit with the case of a young lady being forced to stay at home because of a ridiculous policy at her school. Because she’s not Malay, she must wear a pinafore and not a “baju kurung”.

This comes across as perhaps the most baffling and nonsensical ruling ever made by a school and seems more suited to some sort of apartheid domain than a place for learning. This is either some misguided attempt at making it easy to identify the ethnicity of a student for God-knows-what reason or nothing less than a method of racial segregation. To fall in line with Godwin’s Law and take a metaphorical leap, it’s similar to the Star of David the Nazis made the Jews wear to easily identify them.

Britney Nicole has just moved from Sarawak to the peninsula. Her introduction to life on this side of the South China Sea has been rude, to say the least. To be sent home on your first day and told not to come back until you buy a uniform that conforms to a “regulation” at the school must have been quite a slap in the face. To repeat what Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said, it’s no wonder that non-Malays are becoming increasingly hesitant about sending their children to national schools, especially if policies like this one are quietly more widespread than we know, which is hopefully not the case.

As an alumnus of a sekolah kebangsaan myself, I cannot think of a logical reason for the restriction. Both uniforms are modest. When I was in school, which uniform a girl wore was completely up to her. This freedom to choose, I’m sure, contributed to a certain appreciation for the “baju kurung” in most of our youths, regardless of the ethnicity of the wearer. The only logical assumption is that the policy makers at that school had a far more insidious agenda than they let on.

However, the crux of the matter is that some people have some very misplaced ideas and priorities. Regardless of school “regulations”, Britney should have been allowed to at least attend her classes in spite of her uniform “snafu” as a school’s primary purpose is the education of the young. By denying this young lady her opportunity to attend classes, the school authorities have unfairly and unjustly denied her a safe space for learning. Indeed, she was told not to return to the school until she had obtained a pinafore. And this is despite her guardians’ lack of funds.

Also, telling a guardian or parent who cannot afford to buy the uniform to go and apply for BR1M at the girl’s previous school displays a cavalier attitude that should not be forgiven of a public learning institution. It lacks sensitivity, class, and any sense of grace to humiliate the guardian in that manner.

A school should never be obsessed over a student’s uniform at the expense of her education. It should be assuring students that they are at a place where they can receive an education and fulfilling that assurance.

It is earnestly hoped that the Ministry of Education will take action on this school if this ruling is indeed outside the bounds of the school’s authority, as suggested by Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan. Though it will not undo the damage done to an innocent student, it will go a long way in telling schools that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable from our learning institutions.