Last Friday we had a ‘No Uniform Day’ at school. Normally, you’re not allowed to go anywhere near school without wearing the official uniform. If you do, you are immediately sent home and reprimanded. Even if you just wear different shoes or a different jacket, it’s simply not allowed. Not so on ‘non-uniform day’. In fact on this day you will not find anyone wearing uniform anywhere on the school grounds. You may remember the ‘pink day’ we had a while ago. This was exactly the same but without the requirement to wear anything pink. This time it wasn’t for charity but simply to give students a chance to come to school in their normal everyday clothes.
Not having to wear a uniform for once feels great and it reminds me of my school back home in Switzerland where every day is a “No Uniform Day”. When you are at home, you take many things for granted. During my time here, I have learned to appreciate small things that are quite normal at home but unusual or unknown here. For example, the school bus is always late to arrive here and people just accept it. But last Friday it was actually on time for once. I took this as a sign that the rest of the day would also be nice and I was right.
The downside of the no-uniform day is, that it’s much harder to spot the teachers. Normally teachers come to work in their normal clothes while the students all wear uniform. So teachers tend to stand out of the crowd and can be spotted quite easily. However, on Friday this was not the case and many students were caught using their mobile phone just because they couldn’t hide them fast enough.
Not being allowed to use mobile phones on the school grounds is one of the many school laws and regulations. Every misconduct carries a clear sentence. If you use the mobile phone and you are caught, the phone is taken away for a full week.
When I got here, I was given a book called the 5th year journal. It’s quite heavy and almost as thick as all the books in the “Harry Potter” series put together (but unfortunately not as gripping to read…). A big part of the journal are the school laws which are all printed in this book. When you start school, you are asked to sign a number of mandatory forms and contracts. For example, there’s an “anti-bullying”-agreement that you need to sign. I have never taken the time to completely read through all the laws and regulations in the book but it’s very informative, although much of what is written should just be common sense: Don’t bully other students, don’t physically or verbally attack teachers or students, do your homework, don’t run around naked etc. I haven’t actually seen the law about not running around naked but I’m sure it’s somewhere in there.
The book lists each “law” and also the punishment that can be expected if you break a rule. The rules are not just made up, they are even based on official Irish laws.
So that you can better understand this, here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
The school will provide information on the following legislation relating to the use of the Internet with which teachers, students and parents should familiarise themselves:
- Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003
- Child Trafficking & Pornography Act 1998
- Interception Act 1993
- Video Recordings Act 1989
- Data Protection Act 1988
So how does this very detailed book of school regulations stack up when compared to Switzerland? Well, we don’t really have anything similar. Of course there are certain things that are not allowed (such as running around naked on school grounds) but usually you’re at the mercy of what each teacher defines as right or wrong for his class. With time, students now exactly, what is possible in each class and with each teacher. Is it fair? Well, not always, because if a teacher likes a particular student, he will be more tolerant. For example, if you forget your homework, this could mean anything from staying after class to a friendly “well, why don’t you just complete the work tomorrow”. Because the rules are not clearly spelled out, each new class has to test out the extent of what’s possible. So the Irish system tends to be fairer because everyone knows what’s allowed and what’s not tolerated.
I’m not going to publish all of the rules and regulations here because that would be both extremely boring and also pointless. But if you are interested in learning more about the school policies, just click on this link.