Saturday, August 17, 2013

What ... these six-year-olds don't clean up their American classrooms? Why Japanese school children clean their schools.

When asked, my Japanese friend told me what surprised her about American elementary schools in America was that the children don't clean. And by clean she means washing desks and shelves with a rag, sweeping the classrooms and hallways with brooms, older kids doing periodic cleaning of bathrooms, etc. In Japan, students clean the school like this starting in elementary school and continuing through their high school years. For about 15 minutes a day, it's おそうじ (o-souji) time, or cleaning time. Students, teachers, even administrators drop everything, pull out the buckets and mops, and give everything a good scrub with soap and water.

The practice comes from Buddhist traditions that associate cleaning with morality. The Japanese school curriculum goes beyond the core subjects and also strives to teach cooperation, a sense of responsibility, and public morality. Doing daily cleaning is seen as contributing to this. If you've ever seen how clean Japan is - the graffiti-free subways, the litter-free streets, the tidy neighborhoods whether rich or poor, you will understand this a little bit more.

My daughter's Japanese school here in Michigan only does a one おおそうじ (oosouji), or big cleaning, before the end of the year.