School Uniform And Education For Females In Australian Schooling

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Knowing the past helps us understand the present as it gives insight into what is happening in our world. This is true when looking at characteristics of Australian schoolings, such as school uniform and education for females, as these aspects of education have changed in the present day. Understanding why these aspects of education nowadays are the way they are requires knowledge about the past.

School uniforms, according to Weaver and Proctor, were introduced gradually, in a garment by garment manner, during the late nineteenth century. By the 1980s, Weaver and Proctor found that school uniforms became more widely adopted in every type of school across Australia The reason for introduction was that schools wanted to create their sense of identity and demonstrate exclusivity. Unlike the past, the present day has developed a new purpose for having students wear uniforms. Rather than representing exclusivity, the Department of Education states that school uniforms aim to help students feel a sense of belonging. Also, uniforms still help schools uphold a positive sense of identity but this has been extended to creating a positive identity for the whole school community as well as ensuring students safety as uniforms can allow for easier recognition inside and outside of school. So, by knowing the past reasons for enforcing uniforms, we can see that schools have now shifted their focus more towards student wellbeing rather than aiming to build their own reputation. Moreover, although styles varied across schools, many of their uniforms consisted of multiple garments such as tunic dresses over blouses, collared shirt, V-neck pullovers, ties and blazers. With this many items of attire and Weaver and Proctor finding that some clothing were sold at higher prices for claims of durability and nicer material, uniform would have been expensive and hard to maintain for some students. This type of uniform is still seen nowadays, but changes have occurred. The Department of Education’s school uniform policy explicitly states that school uniform must be affordable, comfortable and made from fabrics that can be easily cared for. Moreover, nowadays, financial assistance is provided to families who are unable to purchase uniforms as some schools have organised facilities such as clothing pools.

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Another example is the education of females. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, females’ rate of participation in school during the 1900s were always significantly lower than those of males. Prior to this, during the late 1800s, Campbell and Proctor found that there was a domestic curriculum including subjects like home economics and home science for female students which involved skills such as sewing, cooking, and doing laundry. This is because society in the past saw the aim of a woman’s life as one being an honourable mistress of her home while raising healthy children. Furthermore, Campbell and Proctor expressed that females who were after an academic education which included subjects like mathematics, were seen to be controversial as many thought that with females becoming more educated, fertility rates will begin to decline. In general, Campbell and Proctor found that girls were taught on the assumption that they would be a domestic servant and the curriculum in place at the time did not offer much encouragement to aspire beyond what was believed to be their ‘natural’ place within society. However, according to Campbell and Proctor, in 1974, the Commonwealth Schools Commission inquired about girls’ education, looking especially at creating national and state gender policies that can address under-achievement of girls and create programs that can reorient girls towards curriculum and higher education so they have access to the same careers and life choices as boys. It is clear that this has been carried through to the present day as females are still being encouraged to break the gender stereotypes in terms of subjects. Females are no longer restricted to doing ‘feminine’ subjects and they have the opportunity to enrol in subject they are interested in. However, there are still not a lot of girls choosing or showing interest STEM subjects in high school as they are still somewhat male-dominated. But in saying this, there are programs that exist nowadays that provide incentive for females who decide to enrol in STEM subjects in order to increase engagement and participation of girls. It is because of the past that we understand the reason behind the continual effort in the present to increase opportunities for female students to participate, achieve good results and be open to multiple career and educational pathways.


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