About Japanese Students Cleaning Their Schools

Japanese students clean their schools

Students in Japan clean their school’s halls and classrooms. There were videos praising this being shared on Facebook a bit ago. You may have seen them, ones like this one by AJ+:

You may think, “That’s great! Why can’t our students be more like Japanese students?!”

As someone who worked for 5 years in public junior high schools in Japan, I’m here to say that I ask the same question, but there is a BUT.

THE cleaning CONCEPT 

Having students clean their school each day for about 15 minutes is a great concept and it instills good values in the kids. It teaches them from a young age that public space is a shared space, and everyone is responsible for maintaining it. This is one reason why Japan as a whole is so clean.

The videos don’t show the full picture however, at least from my Japanese school experience. 


The problem is that Japanese kids are just that - kids. This cleaning is a duty being forced on them, it’s not something they want to do nor does it provide them any direct benefit like helping them pass their entrance exams.

Outside of class time, socializing is the priority. So as expected, they half-ass their cleaning to get it over with so that they can have fun. In nowhere is this filth more apparent than the boy’s bathroom. Go figure. 

In the schools I worked at, the urinals are usually cleaned using a bucket or a hose connected to a sink. Ideally, cleaning it should be a light douse or soft spray after some scrubbing. The fact is though, that it’s quicker to stand back and throw a bucket of water or shoot the hose on high from afar which is what often ends up happening. This leads to everything in the urinal to now splash out and dry on the floor.  

I’ve also seen sh*t smeared on bathroom walls - literal sh*t - that’s never cleaned up. This makes those unused corners of the hallways that are caked with years of dust seem pretty good.


The biggest issue though, is not that the students don’t clean well, it’s that they’re substitutes for janitors and professional cleaners. The public schools that I worked at never got a professional cleaning.

Having students do the daily tidying up is one thing, but to never have anyone come in to thoroughly clean the school is, to me, a sanitation risk. While I don’t know the exact reason why this is how it was, it seemed to be because of financial reasons. The city wasn’t exactly well off.

It’s fantastic that students are taught at a young age to care for the area that they use each day. It teaches them they have an individual responsibility for the society they’re in. It’s just that 14 year old cleaning labor can’t be all there is.