Spring vacation has come to Japan, and as a parent this means I’ve got two teenagers under foot for the next two weeks, asking us to take them places even though we’re busy with work. Before the official end of the school year — it ends in March and begins again in April — my kids had to do oh-soji or “big cleaning” in their schools, washing and wiping everything in the classrooms, cleaning the windows and hallways, and even scrubbing the toilets. I’ve always thought the Japanese custom of students cleaning their own schools was a good one, since it helps teach them important skills like responsibility and teamwork, and most of all humility, a very important trait for a Japanese person to have. Growing up in the U.S. public school system there was always janitorial staff who did all the cleaning, and to be honest I probably looked down my nose at them a little, so it’d have done me some good to clean a few toilets. I asked my daughter if the teachers were there to make sure the students were each cleaning the areas they were assigned properly, and she said no. Instead, the realization that anyone not doing their part to would be letting the other students in the class down, and so everyone worked hard at their “big cleaning.”
So what do you think of this policy? What if they tried to introduce it in the U.S.?
In Japanese schools, students do all their own cleaning, which builds character, as in this illustration.