Practice teaches young Japanese to respect environment

Young Japanese pupils are rostered to carry their meals from the school kitchen to their classrooms and clean the school compound. PHOTO: TAN YI WEN

In traditional Japanese schools, students do o-soji, which translates as "big cleaning".

Students are rostered to tidy classrooms and wash toilets for about 20 minutes, sometimes for four days a week.

Contrary to popular belief, Japanese schools do have cleaning staff, or shuji, to make sure the school remains clean. However, all students are still required to scrub floors and sweep.

These processes aim to make them respect their surroundings and refrain from making a mess as they will be the ones cleaning them.

It also puts all students, regardless of social status or wealth, on an equal footing.

The Japanese School in Singapore tones down the practice due to its tight curriculum structure, but the purpose behind it remains.

Students have a mass clean-up session every Monday for 10 to 15 minutes before dismissal.

At its primary school campus - each of its three campuses has an average of 800 students - the school employs only four cleaners.

The rest of the responsibility of maintaining cleanliness falls on the pupils. For example, instead of eating in a cafeteria, they eat in the classroom.

Teacher Aiko Kuno, 34, said: "The students clean the tables before they eat and after too. They like cleaning." She affirmed that they are conscientious about cleaning up after themselves, so pest infestations have never been a problem.

Basic practices, like flushing and not flicking water onto the floor in the toilet, are other things they observe.

Principal Maekawa Yoshihiro said: "For a long time, it has been an important part of Japanese education to teach our children, from a young age, virtues such as cleaning up after themselves, being punctual and greeting their elders.

"When this becomes a habit, they will continue practising this when they are older and begin work, when such virtues are all the more important."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline Practice teaches young Japanese to respect environment. Subscribe