Dubai, Sep 28 (UNI) The Saudi Education Ministry said it would not change the dress code for school students amid a raging debate over the issue.
''The current uniform of public schools across the country represents Saudi identity, and this won't change for the time being,'' Deputy Minister for boys education Saeed Almaleas said.
Under the current dress code boys are required to wear the Saudi traditional thobe (dishdash) and shumaq (the Saudi man's headdress).
Saudi educational policies also apply to Saudi private schools, but not to international private schools where most expatriates send their children.
Students are sent home if they do not follow the code.
But the teacher fraternity felt that the wearing traditional clothing to school was ''impractical and restrictive''.
Officials as Manager of King Faisal Schools, Mohammed Alkateeb, have called for a separate school uniform, Arab News reported.
Mr Alkateeb said he would like to see a school uniform consisting of pants and white, button-down shirts because it was impractical to expect students participating in outdoor activities in long-shirts. ''Boys are hyperactive and need less restrictive clothing than the thobe,'' he said.
''The student's convenience and how much a school uniform fulfills the needs of activities is the most important point to consider. Maintaining tradition should not be of significance when it comes to choosing a school outfit,'' he opined.
Rashaid Alrashid, who is in charge of sports activities for Saudi schools, pointed out that boys have to change for athletic events. ''Students are allowed to wear athletic outfits during physical education classes and athletic events,'' he said.
''Other than that, the thobe is the best school uniform,'' he said.
Mr Alrashid felt that the traditional Saudi outfit was more ''egalitarian'', echoing arguments for a standard public school uniform thateliminates class-based fashion competitions among students.
''Wearing a white thobe eliminates competition and pressure on students who come from lower-income families that can't afford brand new shirts and or plenty of pants every school year,'' he said.
Abdul Aziz Algayamah, who teaches middle school in Riyadh, said a different system that uses a distinct public school uniform would make it easier to handle students than the current policy.
This colour-coded system is already applied in girls' public schools; teenage girls wear 'abayas' to and from school in accordance with Saudi custom but remove these robes inside the school where colour-coded uniforms (typically colored sleeveless dresses with long-sleeve white shirts beneath) distinguishes the girls by grade level.
Mohammed Alosimy, a former deputy minister for educational development, said he fully supports maintaining the status quo.
''Our schools adopt traditional uniforms. What is wrong with that? Boys come to schools to learn ethics, discipline and how to represent their traditional identity on a daily basis,'' he said.