Hot weather can hit students’ exam chances

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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A new study has found that hot weather can adversely affect children’s chances of doing well in exams.

Taking exams can be stressful enough, without having to sit in sweltering classrooms and stifling school halls. Now a new study has found that hot weather can adversely affect children’s chances of doing well in exams.

Researchers in the US have reported a link between higher temperatures and lower school achievement. They discovered that in years with hotter weather pupils were likely to perform less well in exams, with hotter temperatures making it more difficult to concentrate in lessons and on homework out of school.

The academics, from Harvard University, the University of California (UCLA) and Georgia State University, said that “cumulative heat exposure inhibits cognitive skill development”. They added, however, that using air conditioning to keep schools cool in hot weather can mitigate this effect.

Their analysis of 10 million US children’s test scores over 13 years showed that hotter school days prior to children taking their exams reduced learning. This applied across the many different types of climate in the US, from the cooler northern states to the typically much warmer south.

Extreme heat proved to be particularly damaging and had more effect on low-income and minority students.

The authors of the report, entitled Heat and Learning, said their findings were “not explained by pollution” or “local economic shocks”. This, they said, suggested that “heat directly reduces the productivity of learning inputs”.

Joshua Goodman, associate professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and one of the report’s four co-authors, said that during hot weather students were incrementally more likely to be “distracted, agitated and find it harder to focus”.

He added that it would have been harder to carry out similar studies in the UK because the differences in weather conditions would have been much narrower.

To read the Heat and Learning report, visit www.hks.harvard.edu/publications/heat-and-learning


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