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Daily school cleaning for students ‘a good lesson in social responsibility’

SINGAPORE — Before Xingnan Primary School encouraged nine-year-old Annissa Ong and her schoolmates to develop good cleaning habits by helping to tidy their classrooms and the canteen every day, she would simply leave her plate and utensils at the dining table after her meals at home.

Daily school cleaning for students ‘a good lesson in social responsibility’

Students at Xingnan Primary School helping each other out during cleaning duties on Feb 25, 2016. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Before Xingnan Primary School encouraged nine-year-old Annissa Ong and her schoolmates to develop good cleaning habits by helping to tidy their classrooms and the canteen every day, she would simply leave her plate and utensils at the dining table after her meals at home.

Now, the Primary Four student would not only help her mother with washing dishes, but also clean up after her six-year-old brother after meal times, said her father Ong Boon Leong, 40. 

Such good life-habits are what the Ministry of Education (MOE) hopes to cultivate among the young with its move to have all schools involve their students in the daily cleaning of the school environment by the end of this year. 

All primary and secondary schools, junior colleges and the centralised institute will have to set aside at least five to 10 minutes of their students’ school hours each day for cleaning activities, said the MOE, which had looked at similar cleaning practices from the education systems in Japan and Taiwan. Schools here will have the flexibility to decide the type of cleaning activities — such as sweeping the floors and dusting classroom tables — and when the cleaning can be carried out, such as before the first lesson or during recess. 

Areas to be cleaned include classrooms and common areas, such as canteens and corridors. 

Students will not be expected to clean toilets, which are handled by the school cleaners. In Xingnan, for example, every class is rostered daily to do toilet checks, and provide feedback to the school’s operations manager.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a visit to Xingnan Primary School, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said getting students involved in daily cleaning is a good way to get them to learn about personal and social responsibility.

They can have fun while cleaning, but in the process also pick up some good habits, he said.

“Over some period of time, I’m sure our kids will learn to take care of themselves, learn self-reliance and be able to not just do these good things in school, but be able to go out in society (and show) some graciousness,” he added.  

Before this, some schools already have their own cleaning activities and programmes, although these may not always involve daily cleaning or the participation of all students.

Those that have already incorporated some cleaning time within their school hours include Xingnan, where students have been asked since 2013 to clean up after themselves before the end of recess and the school day. 

At Park View Primary School, music will also be played five minutes before the end of each school day to signal the start of the classroom cleaning routine for all students.

Xingnan student Nadya Adriana, 11, said even though the daily activities will help to make her school environment cleaner, “irresponsible” students must also play their part by not leaving their rubbish lying around. 

Annissa felt that more brooms might be needed in every classroom now that everyone will be involved with the cleaning. 

Her father, Mr Ong, said he noticed how his daughter was slowly starting to realise the importance of cleanliness.  “She started to ask her mum how to wash spoons, forks and plates after dinner … I realised the school did a good job (in teaching) the students,” he added.

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