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No shorts. No dyed hair. No slippers…
Officials stationed at campus entrances every morning to enforce code
By Jane Ng & Amelia Tan

ONE of Singapore’s biggest private schools is cracking down on student dress, banning mini-skirts, flip-flops, dyed hair and visible tattoos, among a host of other things.

The decision by the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) has upset many of its 12,500 students, who called the rules draconian.

‘I think (they) are unnecessary. We are studying at a private institution, not at a secondary school or polytechnic,’ said final-year mass communications student Raaj Kumar, 18.

‘We should have the freedom to choose what we want to wear to school.’

The wide-ranging crackdown, which began last month, leaves the school with tougher enforcement on dress standards than most universities and polytechnics. The dress code includes a prohibition on shorts, singlets, low-cut tops, slippers and facial piercings.

‘The objective of coming to MDIS is to study, not to display distasteful dressing,’ the school’s senior manager for student administration, Ms Jamuna Rani, said yesterday. ‘Students who are here genuinely to study may be put off or influenced by that.’

The school, which offers over 65 programmes, including English and mass communication diplomas, has campuses in Queenstown and Dhoby Ghaut. It has had watchers stationed at school entrances every morning since last month and has sent others on roving patrols in search of offenders, who are given verbal warnings.

Those who flout the rules repeatedly face suspension and being expelled.

The strict enforcement has irked students. Final-year mass communications student Matthew Ingrouille, 18, has been pulled up twice for wearing slippers to school. But he has no plans to wear proper shoes.

‘I’ve always dressed like this and I don’t see why I need to change,’ he said.

Final-year business management degree student Vivian Zeng was warned twice for wearing mid-thigh length denim shorts and having dyed blond hair. The 24-year-old, who is from China, has decided to shelve the shorts.

‘I understand that this is a school and we should respect our teachers so I’ve decided to follow the new rules. But I find the rules too restrictive. Universities in China do not have such rules.’

MDIS said its dress code has been in place since 2002 even though school officials started strictly enforcing it only last month when faced with a surge of miniskirts, bottle-blonds and slipper-clad youths.

Secretary-general R. Theyvendran dismissed claims that the rules were too strict. ‘A certain amount of basic decency should be maintained. Otherwise, those who are serious about studying will be put off by these people,’ he said.

Image consultant Elaine Heng, who advises clients on how to dress for interviews and work, said the MDIS imposes too many dress restrictions.

But the idea of instilling in students the importance of proper dressing is a good one, she said.

‘One of my clients wanted to go for a job interview in sneakers. The rules will remind the students of the importance of looking presentable,’ she said.

A check with the three local universities, polytechnics and private schools found most have dress codes stated on their websites, but many of these are not as rigidly enforced.

While MDIS said it is prepared to give a full refund to students who want to leave the school, it has not come to that yet. In fact, the number of offenders has dropped from 45 a day last month to 15 this month.

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