Student hairstyle rules relaxed
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Student hairstyle rules relaxed

Ministry directive reaffirms that long hair is allowed as long as it's neat

First day at school at Horwang School in Bangkok in 2015. (Bangkok Post file photo)
First day at school at Horwang School in Bangkok in 2015. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The Education Ministry has reaffirmed that students can wear their hair long, so long as it is neat and tidy.

The new regulation, published in the Royal Gazette on Friday and coming into effect the next day, cited the need to clarify existing rules, reflect changing times and respect human dignity. It applies to all schools under the supervision of the ministry.

In fact it differs little from a ministry directive issued years ago, which relaxed a rule that mandated two styles — a pudding-bowl bob for girls and army-style crew cut for boys — until they finished high school.

However, to this day teachers and principals frequently take it upon themselves to decide what is and is not permitted where their students’ hairstyles are concerned.

Just last year, a teacher at a school in Kanchanaburi hacked 12cm off a girl’s hair because she felt it was too long. A viral video of the act, since removed, drew many outraged responses. The girl who filmed the incident was punished for using social media to bring disrepute to the school.

According to the new directive from the Education Ministry, both male and female students may wear their hair long or short. For male students, the length on the sides and back must not extend beyond the back of the neck, while the front and centre must be appropriate and neat.

Female students with long hair must tie it properly.

Students may not perm or dye their hair, wear moustaches or beards, or indulge in special styling such as creating symbols or patterns in their hair.

The rules do not apply to students who can cite religious reasons for wearing their hair in a certain way. Principals will have the authority to approve such cases.

Local schools’ preoccupation with students’ hair is often cited as a symptom of broader problems in the highly regimented school system. It dates back to 1972 when the original bob-and-buzzcut regulation was issued.

A ministerial regulation issued in 1975 allowed students to have longer hair, but stipulated that it must look tidy. However, many schools, especially outside of Bangkok, continued to cling to the old ways.

Most schools in the provinces still require their students to wear uniformly short hairstyles, with perms and dyeing also banned.

Phongthep Thekpkanchana, education minister in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, issued a directive in 2013 asking schools to live up to the spirit of the 1975 regulation, saying he had received many complaints from students.

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