The city's politicians hoped to save nearly 8 million DM (Pounds 3.3 million) a year but intended to pay the schools only a fifth of the money saved, around 2,500 DM (Pounds 1,050) per school per semester. However, they did not bargain on indignant protests from pupils and parents, or on the serious national debate over funding ethics and German values the new policy has prompted.
"On no account may pupils (in Bavaria) be used to do that work," a spokesman for the Bavarian education ministry said.
"We would rather they economised on a teacher here or there than make us clean up," said an 18-year-old Hamburg pupil.
An educational psychologist, writing in Die Zeit newspaper, argued that it would be better to clean up the curriculum than to make children clean their own classrooms.
However, a class of Japanese pupils who read about the debate in their German class in Kyoto had the last word on the Germans' unwillingness to clear up. All pupils in Japan are obliged to clean their own classrooms, as are those in many other countries - rich and poor, they wrote. "Anyone who is not willing to help clean up will never learn order, discipline and responsibility," wrote law student Shizuka Tokunaka.