Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana announced on Wednesday that the strict limits on student’s hair length, imposed after the 1975 coup, would be abolished and that students could wear their hair long provided it was kept tidy.
Wat Makutkasat School's Mathayom 1 student Kiattisak Chu-in said he and his classmates were delighted that they would no longer have to get their hair closely cropped every month, adding that the length of students’ hair did not relate to their academic achievements or behaviour.
Satri Wittaya School's Mathayom 5 student Chonlada Sukjitmalee said she too was happy that the school no longer required all students to keep their hair short. “The end to this hair regulation is making me feel free and independent. I’ll wear my hair long, but tie it up according to the new rule,” she added.
However, others had mixed feelings about the change. Saying that his school would observe the new regulations, Suankularb Wittayalai School director Cherdsak Supasopon said the old hair limits were useful in keeping the students disciplined and focused on their studies.
In contrast, boys who undergo territorial defence training will have to keep their hair closely cropped as required by the military. Territorial Defence Unit chief Lt-General Wichit Sriprasert confirmed that the unit would not change its hairstyle rule, because all cadets had to keep their hair cropped like soldiers.
Parent Sophi Chawiwan, 41, said it was good if the hair-length limit was lifted in all schools because youngsters will no longer have to be embarrassed about their “student hairstyles”. However, she said, she was concerned that some youngsters will use this as an excuse to break rules. “Though hairstyles are not related to academic achievement, some might bend the rule to follow Korean fashion, so we have to keep our kids in check because though the rules are flexible, they still need to be followed,” she added.
Chiang Mai’s Yupparat Wittayalai School parents and teacher’s association president Thinnakorn Namboonjit said lower secondary schoolboys should still keep their hair closely cropped because it looks appropriate with a school uniform. Also, he said, following the old regulations kept children disciplined and taught them to respect rules, so they could grow up to become good citizens. He said that if the control on hair lengths was only seen as a violation of rights, then the authorities might as well let youngsters do everything freely and forget about discipline.
Wat Makutkasat School deputy director Alongkorn Niyakij said he believed the old regulation made it easier to identify students and hence protected them, especially schoolgirls, from sex-related crimes. As their hairstyles marked them out as minors, their attackers would think twice as they face more severe punishment. He also called on the ministry to hold a public hearing and listen to all sides before changing the rule. He added that schools should not just change long-standing rules, but make adjustments to cover the current rules on make-up, nail colour and dyed hair.