By Kevin Stoda
As most readers know, I am teaching in Taiwanese schools currently. This is the second time I’ve taught in East Asia. In 1992 though 1994, I taught in 3 Japanese schools in Niigata Prefecture. There are several similarities between the two countries and their schools. One reason for this is possibly the fact that colonial Japan had controlled and educated the peoples of Taiwan for approximately 50 years. (In no way do I want to laud colonialism. Rather, I simply want to explain only the reason for similarities in the development of school and society–even after the Japanese vacated the islands of Taiwan in 1945.)
One of the more remarkable similarities is in the area of cleaning their own classrooms and schools each day. That is right, both Japanese and Taiwanese students are responsible for keeping the school grounds, their own classrooms, and the rest of the school clean.
At one of my schools, all students clean at the same time, i.e. usually in the morning at 10:10am . At other schools, the students of different grades clean at different hours of the day. At lunch time, the students are also responsible for cleaning their tables.
These activities of cleaning all create a sense of community and responsibility for one’s world and environment. Bob Costello has explained, “In American schools, janitors clean up after the students. In Taiwanese schools, the students clean up after themselves. Cleanup time is a daily ritual wherein Taiwanese students clean the school building, sweep the school grounds, and dump trash. Studies show that students who become more responsible tend to improve their academic performance.”
See Costello’s article here. He explains in a little more detail some disctinctions between Taiwanese and American schools: