26 January, 2023
By Dra. Margarita Mendoza Burgos

We rarely pay attention to the environmental conditions of the classrooms in which our children study.

Usually factors such as lighting, ventilation, wall colors and even temperature are minimized or considered irrelevant.

But nevertheless, there are investigations that assure that certain elements -which can vary depending on the place and the climate- help improve concentration and accelerate student learning.

In our country it cannot be said that environmental conditions are ignored, because it would be missing the truth. But only a few access them, and are those students who attend private institutions.

an elite, a select minority. It all depends on purchasing power. It is no coincidence that the most expensive schools are the largest, with better light conditions, temperature and green spaces.

If that could be replicated in more schools, and especially those of the public framework, the students would go with more desire and would learn in a more appropriate way.

In fact, In public schools, not only is the structural environment lacking, but the students themselves often go without having had a proper breakfast..

In several countries, governments offer free breakfasts as bait for students to attend school. Even so, disinterest in learning and school dropout is on the rise, more with the precarious conditions of the classrooms and the high crime rate around.

Unfortunately in Latin America and in other underdeveloped countries it is not a priority to educate, neither health.

Governments prefer to focus on carrying out actions that are more visible and where they can do better business for the rulers.

They are not interested in preparing a more educated population that can then dedicate themselves to analyzing their governments more. They prefer to deliver some gifts at the time of the electoral campaign.

In Dubai, recently a very interesting experiment was done. In 162 classes, teachers installed a wall full of plants and the number of students with attention deficits was drastically reduced, near to 75%.

“You had kids who were given medication to help them focus, but they didn't need it. What they needed was a better classroom.”, Stephen Heppell explained, British specialist in educational innovation and professor at the University of Bournemouth.

"Much people believe, for example, that it is crazy to fill a classroom with plants. But we know that in a traditional classroom, with the door closed and 25 students inside, after an hour and a half the amount of CO2 in the classroom, in terms of parts per million, is above the appropriate level and impairs concentration”, Heppell adds.

In El Salvador, except for exceptions, technology is not used for education, and those deficiencies are laid bare in these times of pandemic, where everyone is forced to take virtual classes despite the fact that most students do not have computers or internet networks. Why don't you invest in it? Because it is a long-term commitment and, in general, governments want investments that will have an immediate impact and can be advertised at election time..

It wasn't always like this. In El Salvador, during the administration of Minister Walter Béneke, investment was made in better infrastructure and use of televisions and recording studios for Educational Television.

The response was very positive, but when the government changed there was no continuity in the project and all the effort was forgotten. Something similar happened in Venezuela, where an intelligence development ministry was created with proven programs to promote learning, thought and logic, but in the end he suffered the same fate as ours: change of government, end of initiative.

Taking care of the details of the classrooms can make a big difference. No just the ideal temperature, what should be between 19 Y 21 degrees, but also light and air, not to mention the acoustics of the place. In Australia and other parts of the world where temperatures are very high, classrooms have open windows and air enters and blows throughout the building. “It may happen that a school has spent a lot of money on air conditioning, but the air is too dry. And humidity is good for the brain”, Heppell described.

Steve Higgins, Durham University professor (United Kingdom), wrote an essay on 'The Impact of Educational Environments', where he explains that “extremely poor learning environments have a negative effect on students and teaching staff”, as well as that, by improving it, “significant profits are made”.

Despite evidence, our classrooms are far from optimal and nobody seems to have the intention of doing anything to start changing this reality. In the midst of ruined halls, suffocating environments, lousy lighting, intermittent electrical power and zero connectivity, unfortunately our educational infrastructure is a permanent invitation to school dropout.