Instil sense of duty, rather than fear of punishment, in students

I see students returning their utensils and clearing their tables after meals in school tuckshops, but I do not see them doing the same after their meals outside school ("Follow students' lead in clearing tables" by Ryan Tang Shi Jie; Aug 3).

At first, I thought it was because many places such as hawker centres or coffee shops do not have a tray returning system like schools have.

But dirty tables are common even in fast-food restaurants, which have always had a system for clearing trays.

Returning utensils has been a habit practised by students for decades. So, why are we not doing it outside school?

Perhaps in school, we felt coerced into doing things a certain way out of a fear of being punished, rather than a sense of duty and care towards one another.

Things taught in this regimented way will not benefit society, but be "left behind" when students leave school.

We must explain the values we want our students to inculcate and how they can be applied in real life.

Just going through the motions will not be beneficial. Clearing tables must be seen as an act of consideration for the next person. It must not be done out of fear, but from the heart.

I hope students are made aware of the purpose and significance of what they learn in school, and lead the rest of us on the right path to a more caring society.

Ho San Cheow