Emmanuel Macron revealed on Tuesday the contours of the experiment with the “single outfit” in schools, mentioning 100 establishments and a possible generalization by 2026. But is the uniform really intended to erase inequalities and to establish respect, as the Head of State underlined? No, says science, which shows no impact on student behavior and attendance.
Inequalities, gender neutrality, behavior, and even school results: the uniform would be the answer – or almost – to all the ills of children and adolescents, according to those who are calling for its return or rejoicing at its implementation. place, in France as in the rest of the world. The “unique outfit” is more and more popular in certain countries, including the United States or Japan, and could become the subject of generalization from 2026 in France. An announcement made Tuesday by Emmanuel Macron during his press conference.
“The unique outfit erases inequalities between families and creates the conditions for respect. It will be tested in 100 establishments this year. If the results are conclusive, we will generalize it in 2026“, the President of the Republic hastened to tweet on X (formerly Twitter) at the end of his speech. But are these arguments supported by science? The most recent study on the subject, presented at the end of 2021, indicates on the contrary that “school uniforms may not be the most effective way to improve student behavior and engagement“.
The unique outfit erases inequalities between families and creates the conditions for respect. It will be tested in 100 establishments this year. If the results are conclusive, we will generalize it in 2026. pic.twitter.com/eT4lImV6EN
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) January 16, 2024
A team of American scientists, led by Arya Ansari, professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, looked at the impact of the uniform on attendance, anxiety, withdrawal about self, violence, sense of belonging, and other social characteristics concerning younger students. To do this, they used data from an early childhood study, based on a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 students from kindergarten to the end of CM2.
The results show that wearing a uniform at school had no effect on the behavior of children of all ages, whether in terms of attendance or internalized or externalized behavioral problems. The scientists, however, say that low-income students attending schools where uniforms were compulsory were “slightly more diligent”.
“Many of the basic arguments for why school uniforms are beneficial for student behavior do not hold up in our sample. We did not find a big difference in our measures of behavior whether or not schools had a uniform policy“, underlined the main author of this research in a press release.
“The opposite effect”
Although it was not associated with a significantly positive impact, the school uniform did, however, show some of its limits. The study tells us that students who wore a uniform every day reported lower levels of belonging at school than those who could dress in their own clothes. The scientists confide that their data does not allow them to explain this observation, but that the uniforms did not necessarily create the expected feeling of community.
“While uniforms are supposed to create a sense of community, they can have the opposite effect. Fashion is a way for students to express themselves, and it can be an important part of the school experience. When students can’t show their individuality, they may feel out of place“, explains Arya Ansari. And to conclude: “School uniforms may not be the most effective way to improve student behavior and engagement“.