More parental involvement is encouraging sign

By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-8 18:28:01

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Shanghai parents are reportedly having more say in schools. According to the Jiefang Daily, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission recently required schools to consult parent advisory councils in regards to their new uniform policies - a decision that was once entirely down to schools.

As a result, Yangpu Elementary School recently bid farewell to uniforms. The parent advisory council explained that it was so difficult to reach a consensus on style, fabric and price range that not ordering uniforms at all would be a better idea. Other schools continued, updated, or cancelled their uniform policies in response to the votes of their respective parent advisory councils, too.

This is something I hoped for but never expected when I was in secondary school. At my alma mater, the uniforms we had to wear every day were hideous - the winter uniform was baggy in an embarrassing color of frog-green (junior) or eggplant-purple (senior) and had no thermal layers, and the summer uniform was not only quite see-through but also unpleasantly airtight.

It was not that the school did not know what we the wearers and our parents, who were paying for these aesthetically and functionally substandard garments, thought about the uniforms. Yet not once during my seven years was the topic ever brought up for discussion and negotiation.

It might seem that I approve of what is happening at the start of this new semester simply because school children today have a chance to get rid of terrible uniforms (or any uniforms) via the support of their parents, but this is not my point. What I find encouraging is that schools finally do listen to what the other side is saying before making a decision that affects the students on a daily basis - a gesture disappointingly uncommon in the way education is run in Shanghai.

Yet at the same time, I cannot help wondering if this is just an isolated case. Apparently, parents are invited to participate in uniform decision-making for the very first time because of the city's notorious uniform scandal - a toxic dye was found in certain products - that broke out this spring. It would of course be absurd if schools did not become more transparent over a much-publicized issue that everyone is rightfully upset about.

But what about other issues that have not yet gained equivalent attention? For example, a number of schools in the city have introduced sex education classes, yet most students do not have any idea they are having these classes until they are separated into boys and girls and then look at the powerpoint, let alone their parents. I am sorry to say this is not much different from what happened to me and my classmates when we were 12.

I believe the schools are conducting sex education out of good intentions, and that is presumably why they do not find it necessary to seek parental involvement. However, I think schools are irresponsible and inconsiderate to completely ignore parents' right to know and their opinions.

In the US, exact practices vary from state to state, but most states require parental involvement in sex education programs and 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to have their children opt-out, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Of course, this is not about uniforms or no uniforms, sex education or no sex education. This is not even about whether it is the schools or the parents that should have the final say. The emphasis is on schools showing more respect for parents and the paramount importance of communication, something which Shanghai still has a long way to go on.

Posted in: TwoCents, Metro Shanghai

blog comments powered by Disqus