Students to do daily cleaning of classrooms, common areas
Primary school's cleaning initiatives teach pupils to be considerate
Mohammed Arshad, 12, gets upset when his older sister does not do her share of the housework in their three-room flat.
"I should (keep the flat clean), but why isn't there a daily roster so we can take turns?" said the Xingnan Primary School pupil.
The Primary 6 pupil's sense of responsibility stems from cleaning initiatives his school has implemented over the years.
The Ministry of Education hopes to get all schools to do the same by the end of the year. (See report )
In Xingnan Primary School, for instance, every class has two nominated housekeeping members who encourage their classmates to clean up after themselves.
Arshad is one such member.
"We need to clean our own canteen table after we eat. We need to take care of our own school," he said.
At home, he helps his mother with the housework, a habit he developed in kindergarten.
"In kindergarten, I didn't have much homework and there wasn't much to study so my parents would ask me to help out.
"I used to throw my chocolate wrappers around the house so I had to go around picking them up," Arshad said.
He helps his mother sweep the floor daily and sometimes washes the dishes.
"I just wanted to help my mum so she will be less stressed. I always see her sitting on the sofa (looking) very stressed," said Arshad.
Consideration for others is one of the values that can be learnt from cleaning activities in school, said former Public Hygiene Council chairman and long-time cleanliness advocate Liak Teng Lit.
Other values include self-reliance and responsibility, he said.
He said inculcating such values is important in school and at home.
Mr Aron Ong, a father of two, agreed: "It's not just the school's responsibility. Parents have to do something too. Otherwise, the children won't continue with these good habits after they leave school."
The 40-year-old in the sales industry said he noticed a positive change in his daughter, who is in Primary 4 at Xingnan Primary School.
"When we go to McDonald's, she is the one to remind us to clear our trays," he said.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to keeping the environment clean enough for comfort.
As 10-year-old Annisa Ong put it: "If the place is dirty, it will attract cockroaches. I'm scared of cockroaches."
I just wanted to help my mum so she will be less stressed. I always see her sitting on the sofa (looking) very stressed.
- Mohammed Arshad on helping with the housework
All schools to include daily cleaning: MOE
Some schools, like Xingnan Primary and Park View Primary, incorporate five to 10 minutes of cleaning activities within school hours every day.
The Ministry of Education hopes such cleaning activities will be extended to all schools - from primary schools to junior colleges - by the end of the year.
The cleaning will cover areas such as classrooms, canteens and corridors. Other chores, such as cleaning the toilets, will still be done by janitors in school.
Before this move, the ministry looked at similar practices in Japan and Taiwan, where cleaning is a daily ritual for students.
Speaking to reporters after a cleaning exercise at Xingnan Primary School, the Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said: "Getting the kids involved in such daily activities is really a good way to get them to learn personal responsibility and even social responsibility."
TEAMWORK: Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng (in white) joining Xingnan Primary School pupils in a cleaning exercise.
Adding that the response from parents has been positive, he said: "Over ...time, I'm sure our kids will learn how 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 into society...and even in the hawker centres.
"They can do their part and return the trays (and) keep our environment clean for all of us to enjoy."
When asked how he will encourage other schools to embark on this initiative, Mr Ng said: "It's not difficult because school leaders and parents, I think most of us, see the good value in this programme.
"Getting our kids to be responsible is naturally a good thing.
"And when they learn to take care of themselves, it's a double bonus."