Japanese School Culture – Students Clean Their Own Classrooms and Washrooms

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Japanese School Culture - Students Clean Their Own Classrooms and Washrooms

Handing out the responsibility of the cleanliness of the school to students will improve their sensitive nature to take care of the school they study in. Not only will it help students get some physical exercise but it will also help with their mental well-being.

In Japanese education, cleaning is one of the major key traditions. It is known as o-soji (cleaning). Every student at school must participate in the cleaning process, maintenance, and upkeep of their school, and that means that absolutely everyone has to roll up their sleeves and play their part.

Normally o-soji or the cleaning process starts after 20 minutes after lunch break 4 times a week, excluding Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is on the last day before the end of a semester, where the students get involved in longer in-depth cleaning, making sure every corner of the school is spick and span.

During the time of cleaning, the school put on the o-soji song played over the school sound system. The o-soji song would sometimes be replaced with a piece of rousing classical music, which is played to motivate and encourage the students. With each class responsible for its own area, it isn’t long before the whole school is looking spick and span.

japanese students cleaning school
Image source: Yusuke Japan Blog

Most teachers, parents and even students will tell you that it is about building up a system of responsibility, whereby children learn that they must be responsible for their actions, their environment, and that by working together in shared responsibility they are able to achieve far much more than they could ever do alone.

The school also assigns older students to oversee the work of the little ones. Giving the small children (of whom the majority in Japan are from single-child families, hitorikko) gain interaction with older role-models that they don’t get at home, teaching the older children about responsibility.

Do you think Japanese schools do not hire janitors? That is not quite true. Janitors, who are called yomushuji, or shuji for short, do oversee more in-depth elements of the cleaning that would not be possible for children as well as areas of the school, bathrooms, that are not cleaned by the children themselves.

In recent times, there has been a move away somewhat from o-soji as more parents in the highly academic-focused Japanese culture have come to believe that this o-soji time could be used for learning, (combined o-soji can, after all, take up over an hour of school time a week). Others are now complaining that there has been an increase in littering by Japanese school children and a break from the communal discipline as a result of o-soji becoming less commonplace.

We will need to see going forward just how Japan changes, and whether they maintain the o-soji culture. Who would disagree that a little bit of discipline, a little bit of elbow grease, and a lovely clean learning environment is something that shouldn’t go out of fashion too soon!

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