This Is How Japanese Children Clean Their Schools

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This Is How Japanese Children Clean Their Schools

Do you think your school or college, or the school or college of your kids is a little bit rough around the edges or in need of a bit of a tidying up? Well maybe they should turn to Japan for some inspiration.


One of the key traditions of Japanese education is o-soji (cleaning). What o-soji means is that all pupils must assist in the cleaning, maintenance and upkeep of their school, and that means that absolutely everyone has to roll up their sleeves and play their part.


In a typical Japanese school o-soji takes place for 20 minutes after lunch break 4 times a week, excluding Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a much longer in-depth cleaning occurring the last day before the end of a semester, probably to get those hard to reach places. All of this cleaning is carried out to the sound of the o-soji song played over the school sound system. The o-soji song, sometimes replaced with rousing classical music, is played to motivate and encourage work – who would disagree that playing music while cleaning makes it a bit more fun and enjoyable? With each class responsible for its own area it isn’t long before the whole school is looking spick and span.


While keeping a clean school is one clear reason for o-soji it isn’t the only one, and maybe not even the most important. 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.


This is not the only benefit, as older children are asked to go and oversee the work of the little ones, it means that small children (of whom the majority in Japan are from single-child families, so called hitorikko) gain an interaction with older role-models that they don’t get at home, while at the same time teaching the older children responsibility over others.



While it may be imagined that Japanese schools do not require janitors this isn’t 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, such as 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 better 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 though 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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Thinking Humanity: This Is How Japanese Children Clean Their Schools
This Is How Japanese Children Clean Their Schools
Do you think your school or college, or the school or college of your kids is a little bit rough around the edges or in need of a bit of a tidying up? Well maybe they should turn to Japan for some inspiration. One of the key traditions of Japanese education is o-soji (cleaning). What o-soji means is that all pupils must assist in the cleaning, maintenance and upkeep of their school, and that means that absolutely everyone has to roll up their sleeves and play their part.
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