O-soji or the Japanese big school cleaning

One of the traditions of the Japanese education system is that students do their own cleaning. However, this does not mean the absence of cleaners as such in educational institutions.

In a normal school, cleaning starts after lunch and lasts 20 minutes, then the children are released for shifts. On the last day of each semester, it is time for the so-called o-soji (big cleaning). Students are responsible for the cleanliness of their classroom and two other school premises. At the same time, there is another rule that we think is quite cute: a group of sixth graders goes to the classrooms of first graders to help the kids clean.

Schools support this kind of interaction between older and younger classes, as many Japanese children are hitorikko (without siblings). Teachers believe that by conducting joint rituals, missing communication skills are compensated, elders learn to help younger ones, and children, in turn, need role models.

Three times a year, students older than the third grade arm themselves with a solid arsenal of children’s brooms and garbage scoops, put on special gloves (each object of the cleaning ritual has its own name) and go to collect garbage in the neighborhood of the school. However, not all educational institutions are engaged in cleaning at the place of residence, and the amount of garbage scattered around the district by Japanese teenagers is increasing. Sociologists and environmentalists suggest that if teenagers had to regularly pick up trash around their school, maybe they would think twice before littering.

Isn’t it difficult for the Japanese to understand why children are late at school and shouldn’t they be using this time to study? However, Japanese parents and teachers will respond that during o-soji, children learn to respect their surroundings and learn firsthand that it is better not to make a mess if you are the one who has to clean it up.

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