Superheated classrooms are compromising our children’s health and ability to learn
Physician's Weekly
February 27, 2024
Superheated classrooms are compromising our children’s health and ability to learn

Last year was the hottest year on record. The blistering temperatures experienced in 2023 were accurately forecasted by Numerical Weather Prediction Models. The same computer models are predicting that 2024 is going to be hotter than 2023.

Based on the temperatures experienced in the Eastern Caribbean over the last 3-4 weeks, 2024 seems well on its way to being a long, hot year. The WHO opines that global warming is the number one existential health crisis facing humanity.

Have you ever considered how unbearable it must be for our children and their teachers in their primary and secondary school classrooms here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and throughout the Caribbean?

A follow-up consideration should be, how does a superheated classroom, which is significantly hotter than the same classroom we occupied many moons ago, impact a student’s ability to concentrate and, by extension, to learn? Of parallel importance, how is their teachers’ ability to impart knowledge likely to be compromised when the classroom temperature is consistently hovering around, or above, 90°F (32.2°C)?

The impact of overheated classrooms on learning, test performance, and teaching

Research has shown that excessive classroom temperatures significantly compromise a student’s ability to concentrate, their test performance, and clouds their thinking.

Studies also confirm that high classroom temperatures compromise a teacher’s ability to impart instructions.

While excessive classroom heat negatively affects children’s academic performances across all subject areas, the impact is greatest on math and math-like subjects.

An excessively hot classroom often results in the students and their teachers becoming:

  • Irritable
  • Fatigued
  • Unmotivated
  • Distracted
  • Discouraged

While an ultra hot classroom results in children being:

  • Cognitively compromised.
  • Slower when performing tests and when completing assignments.
  • More disruptive and aggressive.

This is not a tenable situation and needs to be addressed with ardour, expediently, apolitically, compassionately, pragmatically, and collectively by a wide cross-section of society. Especially those with genuine concerns for the biopsychosocial welfare of our children and their teachers.
The ideal classroom temperature for learning and teaching is 74°F (23.3°C). A temperature that is seldom experienced naturally in the Caribbean.
A study by the American Economic Association revealed that for every 1°F rise in classroom temperature, there is a corresponding 1% fall in marks. Conceptualize what is happening to the marks in a classroom whose temperature is 16-22°F higher than 74°F.

No one is immune to heat-related illnesses, however, some are at higher risk – for example:


  • Young children
  • Those returning to their classroom after PE (physical education)
  • Asthmatics
  • Overweight
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Febrile illness
  • Other


  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • Overweight
  • Those with major illnesses (e.g. heart disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes)
  • Those on certain medications (e.g. diuretics, benzodiazepines, laxatives, neuroleptics, L. thyroxine)
  • Other

School factors contributing to heat-related illnesses:

  • Poor ventilation and airflow
  • Classrooms (including classrooms’ roofs) exposed to direct sunlight
  • Large gatherings – e.g. school assemblies.

Heat-related illnesses that can affect students and teachers:

  • Heat rash
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Heat syncope (fainting)
  • Extreme heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Mitigating the impact of high classroom temperatures

  • Facilitate easy access to drinking cool water.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • Have short cool-down breaks between subjects.
  • Install blinds on sun-drenched windows.
  • Implement a dynamic classroom arrangement that changes over the course of the day, so that no one inside is exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Consider outdoor teaching – in a shaded area.
  • Uniforms and physical education attire should be light-coloured cotton.
  • Physical education and other outdoor activities are scheduled to avoid the hotter times of the day between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Educate the students on the importance of consuming lots of fluids.
  • Teachers should be trained in basic first aid.
  • Aim for classroom temperatures that are consistently less than 90°F/ 32°C. Fans help, however, if the temperature exceeds 95°F/ 35°C they are ineffective.
  • Look into installing (alternative-energy-powered) air-conditioning units.
  • Paint the rooftops of schools with sun-reflective paint. This reduces the rooftop temperature by 50°F (28°C) on average, translating into a much less hostile classroom environment for students and teachers.
  • Schools should close on excessively hot days (temperatures >100°F/ 37.8°C).
  • School assemblies should be rescheduled if the assembly room is excessively hot.

Students and teachers should seek medical attention if:

  • They faint
  • Agitated, confused
  • Unable to consume fluids
  • Not sweating
  • Skin dry or clammy
  • Temperature is 102.2°F/ 39°C or higher
  • Pulse is fast or weak.
  • Vomiting
  • Having diarrhoea
  • Experiencing severe muscle cramps or spasms
  • Urine dark or very concentrated.

Entities with the responsibility for facilitating a more enabling classroom environment:

  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Transport and Works
  • National teachers’ unions
  • Teachers and administrative staff of each school, respectively.
  • Parents/ teachers associations
  • Alumni of the schools
  • Service clubs
  • Charitable organizations
  • Others

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale. Former tutor, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados. For appointments:, 1(784)570-9300, (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.