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Cleanliness and Education Go Hand-in-Hand in Japan

by Kareena Dodeja
Cleanliness and Education Go Hand-in-Hand in Japan

February 24, 2021

Most (not all) young adults are often too lazy to clean. That's because they think of it as a chore or a task their parents force them to do. In Japan, however, cleaning is more than just a parent-enforced activity- it is part of the student's education curriculum.

In Japan, students from first grade learn to clean and maintain their classrooms, serve lunch to their classmates, and clean restrooms as part of their school’s syllabus. Yes, that’s right. While some “extra-woke” folks might think of making children do mandatory cleaning as some sort of human rights abuse, cleaning is a holistic approach to growing up as a responsible citizen in Japanese culture.

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Students In Japan Are Taught Clean-liness in Schools

Japanese Culture of Teaching Cleanliness

Japanese education aims to bring up children who can be productive individuals in society and ready to take any responsibility. They are raised in a way to learn the importance of cleanliness.

This is called ‘Gakko Soji‘ which means school cleaning in Japanese- the practice has its roots in Buddhist teachings. This term iterates how important it is to keep the surroundings and body clean.

A Day in the Life of a Japanese Student

School children in Japan have to sweep their classrooms, clean the corridors, and restrooms (even ICSE schools don’t make students do this in India)! Students serve lunch and help clean up during lunchtime. Many schools do not have janitors, and if they do, it is to do tasks that children are unable to do so.

The teachers assist the students by giving them a proper schedule of the tasks allotted to them. Cleaning is considered a holistic practice for children to show gratitude towards their school. Students carry out the trash, clean the blackboards and bundle up papers. They also have to clean the lawn at times by raking or shovelling.

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People fascinating to see that students clean up their classrooms. They move the tables to one end of the room and then take the brooms out of the locker where they then sweep towards the center of the floor.

Cleaning of surroundings is not the job of the school only, but also the students. They have to learn to keep everything clean to become model citizens and respect their surroundings when they grow up. This practice aims to instil values of respect, responsibility, and empathy in students to grow up and become mindful.

Prudent Cleanliness Drive in Japanese Student's Lives

Japanese schools have ‘yomushuji‘ or ‘shuji‘, which refers to staff who carry out responsibilities such as cleaning and maintenance. They help out students to complete their tasks. O-soji means cleaning in Japanese, and students have an o-soji schedule laid out for the entire year. 

They tend to such chores after lunch for 20 minutes, and this happens four times a week. On the last day of their semester, students have an effective cleaning and schools spice things up in the finale by playing cheerful marching music to motivate them.

Students in a class are expected to clean their classrooms and two other spots in the school. What may feel like a task is a relationship-building exercise as well. For example, when a group of sixth-graders help first graders clean and interact with them, it’s building relationships as well.

A Sense of Responsibility

The Japanese education system is formed on the belief that students must learn to respect their teachers and practice equality—practices like cleaning ensure that students become well-rounded and responsible individuals for society.

Here is a fun fact for you- the Japanese have bamboo floor mats called ‘Tatami‘ to protect the floor from dust particles. They take their shoes off before entering the house and offices. It also means that everyone is treated equally- both younger and older have to remove their shoes.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

The Japanese system considers “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, and people have implemented it in their lives solemnly over the centuries. If every country implemented cleanliness as part of their education, we could have the cleanest environment to live in (just a thought!).

Children are taught how to live by ensuring that their surrounding is clean. Everyone is taught to respect their own space and exist harmoniously. These tasks allotted to children make them clean up after themselves and build a strong work ethic.

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At Japanese schools, cleaning is part of students’ everyday routine

Parents Believe That Cleanliness Should Be Taught

Some might think – should children be learning to clean at a young age? Well, teaching students to clean up facilitates a culture that they should be self-aware individuals. Children from a young age are trained to care about the environment and treat people with respect.

These inherent qualities lead to becoming wholesome individuals. As they grow up, they will continue to respect their space. Every school implements cleaning as part of their curriculum, but they draw the line on how much emphasis to be placed on it.

Don’t Japanese students get puzzled as to why they have to clean up at the age of studying?

Well, they are taught precisely that they must take care of themselves and their surroundings. School is where children can learn new skills and parents believe schools should educate them in every aspect.

Every Japanese citizen understands that improving the intelligence of their children is not the only goal. They believe such practices can help their children become well-respected individuals who treat people equally.

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