「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Learning to clean again

By Tan Ying Zhen


When I was a student, classroom cleaning was part of the daily schedule. Every class had a roster and each student was allocated specific duties such as sweeping, cleaning the board and emptying the rubbish.

I had assumed the practice was an ongoing one. So I was surprised when the Ministry of Education recently announced that daily cleaning by students would be introduced in all schools. The intention was "to inculcate in students a sense of responsibility and good life habits." The ministry had looked at similar practices in Japanese and Taiwanese schools, where students clean the compound every day.

I wondered when this practice had ended in Singapore. Why had schools discontinued it in the first place?

More surprising still were some parents' reactions to the news. While most of those interviewed welcomed the ministry's move, some had reservations. Would their kids be too tired with the "extra" cleaning duties? Would the time taken up for cleaning be "better spent" on studying? (Never mind that cleaning was just five to 10 minutes a day, and the students don't even have to clean the toilets.)

Apparently, many Singaporean kids no longer do housework because they have stay-in helpers, usually young women from the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar. My educator friends shared horror stories of how they see young people who are as clumsy with a broom as they are adept with a smartphone. Some kids have never washed a single bowl or plate. When they want a drink at home, they don't even have to lift a single finger. Their helpers are the ones who pour them the drinks and in some cases, tie their shoelaces for them.

One of the most incredible stories I heard was from a friend who leads boy scouts on camps. A teenage scout recently showed up for an outdoor camp in the forest with a sophisticated trolley suitcase, which hadn't even been packed by himself. His helper had done it.

"Young people these days need to toughen up," my friend lamented. "They're just too spoilt!"

I suppose every generation says this of the next generation. But I can't shake off the feeling that Singaporean kids may indeed be too pampered. Perhaps we've become so obsessed with academic results that cleaning up after oneself is no longer seen as necessary. Moreover, the monthly wage for a stay-in helper is usually just a few hundred Singaporean dollars (SG$100 = ¥8,280), something many families can afford.

"Singaporeans are rich!" My ex-colleague from Japan had said when I told her Singaporean schools hire cleaners and students don't have to clean the toilets. I wish we were indeed rich — rich enough in heart and spirit to pay our cleaners and helpers better wages, and to clean up after ourselves.



The Japan Times ST: April 8, 2016

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版