Taking a cue from Japan and Taiwan, students in primary and secondary schools here, as well as those in junior colleges, will have to spend at least a few minutes each day cleaning classrooms, canteens and corridors by the year end.
The aim, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) yesterday, is to help them cultivate good habits for life.
Highlighting how many schools already include five to 10 minutes of cleaning by students, MOE said this will be made compulsory across all schools by the year end. Schools are free to decide on what these daily activities should be, and when they take place.
Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, who yesterday visited Xingnan Primary School, where pupils clean up after recess and at the end of the school day, said getting students involved in daily cleaning is a good way to get them to learn personal and social responsibility.
Mr Ng, who joined the pupils in tidying up the classroom, explained that when children follow a routine, they can "cultivate good habits and make them a part of their lives".
The Public Hygiene Council (PHC) and Singapore Kindness Movement will also help in outreach efforts.
PHC chairman Edward D'Silva said the move was not a response to anything in particular. "During my time, all schools had area cleaning. We cleaned classrooms, toilets and corridors," he added. "We hope to promote the good values that we used to have before."
The ministry had looked at similar practices from education systems in Japan and Taiwan. In these places, cleaning the school compound is a daily routine for students. Many schools do not employ cleaners or janitors.
Ms Lee Bee Wah, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for the Environment and Water Resources, also told The Straits Times that schools in Taiwan even find ways to motivate students to clean up, including letting them decorate their classrooms and toilets. Students also sometimes compete to see who can sort the trash faster.
"In Singapore, many people, especially younger people, are used to maids or cleaners cleaning up after them," she said. "If we don't arrest this trend now, our littering problem will only get worse."
Serangoon Junior College principal Manogaran Suppiah said getting students involved with the cleaning would give them a sense of ownership of their school space.
Second-year Meridian Junior College student Goh Shu Yi, 17, said that even without such organised cleaning activities, she and her schoolmates already pick up after themselves. "It is something we do because it is a good habit," she said.
Primary 5 pupil Nadya Adriana, who studies at Xingnan, said she usually helps by sweeping the floor or wiping the whiteboards during recess or before dismissal.
"If we don't keep the classroom clean, we might not be able to concentrate during lessons," said the 11-year-old.
This article was first published on Feb 26, 2016.
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