[Above: Professor AzilahAbdul Rahman (left) and Datuk Dr Mohamad Abdul Razak.]
THERE is no running away from guidelines and regulations.
Universiti Malaya Centre for Foundation Studies in Science director Associate Professor Azilah Abdul Rahman says: "We have to maintain the dress code in higher- learning institutions.
"The fundamental question is: 'Why are parents sending their children here in the first place?' Parents expect their children to focus on their studies, as they should.
"We also have many foreign students and we have to be sensitive towards their views. I've heard that African parents favour Malaysian institutions because they like the dress codes and the way our teenagers conduct themselves. They also admire our culture and trust their children to be in our country.
"Unfortunately, once the students are outside the university, they get influenced easily and then it is out of our hands."
Azilah says the idea is not to control or suffocate the students, but to set basic guidelines.
"This is not to say we should have strict rules but manageable guidelines, suitable to our culture. As such, we must set dress codes.
"In our centre, male students must wear ties, shirts and slacks. Female students must be in traditional wear, like baju kurung.
"It's much easier to set these regulations for matriculation students as they have just finished Form Five and tend to follow instructions.
"So far, there have been no negative response to our dress code because during enrolment we've already advised their parents. Our students are always invited for formal functions because of their attire and conduct.
"When they dress properly, the mood is set and they are more focused on their studies. Although people say don't judge a book by its cover, first impressions do count."
But, her opinion is not shared by all.
Universiti Kebangsaan Ma-laysia student and alumni affairs deputy vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohamad Abdul Razak does not believe the way students dress is going to affect their studies.
"When it comes to codes and policies, I don't believe in putting too many rules and regulations on this group of students. A good education system would teach them which way to follow."
Universiti Malaya deputy vice-chancellor (student affairs and alumni) Associate Professor Datuk Dr Azarae Idris believes that although some regulations should be in place, there is no need for extremely strict laws, even in public institutions.
"At the college and university level, we need to help students make that transition to the next stage of their life.
"So, we try to treat our students as adults.
"We used to have the words 'tidak menjolok mata' in our dress code policy, but we've taken it out because that phrase is too subjective.
"But we do haul up students who are inappropriately dressed."
Do students' attire affect other coursemates?
"We must look at humans as biological beings; chemically controlled. Animal beings respond to sight and smell, releasing certain chemicals.
"Some people who are 'sensitive' may be affected. We should not be in denial or hypocrites. But it's the way you handle the reaction which is important."
-New Straits Times