Fine Dust (PM2.5)

And its effect on learning environments

Fine Dust (PM2.5)

Micro-particulates can travel into children’s lungs, triggering health problems that also impact on attendance and performance. The Learnometer can measure from 0 to 1,000μg/m³ ±15μg/m³ or 15%

“When we began the Learnometer project the link between well-being and pollution was clear, but pollution’s impact on learning was largely hypothesised by us, without much good evidence. Since then however some substantial research projects, like this one using data from China, published by Xi Chen et al, at Yale School of Public Health in the US, have suggested that high levels of urban pollution have a major impact on attainment – some children dropping a whole year of progress in their school lives.

Although it is unlikely that relocating a school will be possible, battles against planning approval for siting polluting industries near schools will be a lot easier to win, given clear pollution data from within classrooms. However, a little micro-research study at Anglia Ruskin University’s Cambridge campus has shown us that opening windows to let the heat and CO2 out, can let high levels of urban pollution in – a nice indicator of the complexity of all this which our Learnometer and its algorithms might hopefully inform.

Pollution levels can be damaging in the case of a one-off exam too. Avraham Ebenstein Victor Layv and Sefi Roth found published in 2016 that pollution hurt the exam marks, but that the impact f that lasted into later attainment and employment. Another nail in the coffin of examination equity?

“Exploiting variation across the same student taking multiple exams, we find that transitory PM2.5 exposure is associated with a significant decline in student performance. We then examine these students in 2010 and find that PM2.5 exposure during exams is negatively associated with postsecondary educational attainment and earning.”


Stephen Heppell

Learnometer Inventor