Students from primary school to junior college have to clean classrooms, canteens and corridors daily from January

Calvin Yang
The Straits Times
Dec 12, 2016

Students from primary school to junior college will have to clean classrooms, canteens and corridors daily when schools reopen next month.

All schools have now implemented cleaning activities, the Ministry of Education (MOE) told The Straits Times in an update. The aim is to help students cultivate good habits for life.

Schools are given the flexibility to decide on what these daily activities should be and when they take place.

This comes after the ministry announced in February that it will make daily cleaning compulsory across schools by the year end. There are currently 365 schools.

Xinmin Primary School in Hougang has implemented daily cleaning activities since July. After teachers finish their last lessons, about 10 minutes before the end of a school day, pupils clean their classrooms. Vice-principal Clement Lee said this helps pupils develop good values.

At Coral Secondary School in Pasir Ris, students - armed with rags, tongs and disposable gloves - empty the dustbins and arrange the classroom furniture, as well as sweep the floor, for five minutes at the start of the school day.

To motivate them, the school introduced cleanliness checks, done at least twice a term.

After each check, classes are informed of their scores in four respective areas - floor, rubbish bin, classroom furniture, white board and notice board. Classes that have done well are lauded during morning assemblies at the end of each term.

Mrs Chang-Loy Wee Meng, the school's vice-principal, said students can also identify areas for improvement. For example, some classes have introduced storage spaces to arrange their files and books. The initiative inculcates a greater sense of ownership among students in managing common spaces.

"In fact, the cleaners had given positive feedback on the state of cleanliness in the classrooms," she said.

At Teck Ghee Primary School in Ang Mo Kio, pupils clean classrooms and corridors alongside their teachers for five minutes at the end of the school day. Songs, adapted to suit the cleaning theme and sung by the teachers, are played over the public address system while the pupils clean. Vice-principal Raps Azrinah said teachers are role models for the pupils. "Everyone must play their part to keep shared spaces clean and tidy."

MOE said feedback has shown that such activities have helped to "cultivate good life habits in students both in school and at home".

It had looked at similar practices at schools in Japan and Taiwan. Cleaning the school compound is a daily routine for students there. Many also do not employ cleaners.

Parents who spoke to The Straits Times have given MOE's move the thumbs up. Many explained that cleaning activities will teach students important values, especially for those who have maids at home.

Mrs Jenny Lee, 47, who has two teenage sons, said: "Kids these days may take cleanliness for granted. The daily cleaning activities would help them pick up good habits."

One parent, who would not give her name, however, has her doubts. "Such activities may not be appropriate for the younger ones," she added. "They may get tired easily and lose focus on their studies."

Dr Timothy Chan, director of SIM Global Education's academic division, said students get more than just clean classrooms. "It puts all students, regardless of social status or wealth, on an equal footing and builds character in them," he added.

"Some parents criticise our schools for being like cookie-cutters, producing the same type of students who know only how to pass exams and lack life skills. Hence, getting students to take part in cleaning exercises in school is a good way to impart fundamental life skills."

Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said such activities keep students grounded, and cultivate the habit of picking up after oneself.

"It is important to ensure that this cleaning activity is not the latest flavour of the month and will remain a habit for life," she added.

The Straits Times

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