Written by Registered Biokineticist, Wendy van Wyk.

Ergonomics in the classroom is an important component of students’ learning environment. It can influence students’ physical health, level of comfort and productivity. That’s why it is highly recommended to select appropriate furniture when classrooms are designed. During their early school years, children’s spines are still developing; it is at this young age that sitting habits are formed. It is imperative that children are taught about postural health and are provided with the correct furniture to support them in practicing good seating habits.

Children spend most of their school day seated. Research on classroom furniture has found that the chairs and tables that children are required to use are mostly inadequate, with some studies concluding that almost none of the students were able to find an appropriate seat and desk height combination. The introduction of ergonomic furniture that promotes good posture is arguably even more important to children than to adults. Several factors affect the postural health of children, including their use of classroom furniture, heavy backpacks, the use of electronic devices, underlying health conditions, and sitting habits at home.

School chairs are pivotal in giving the pupils a healthy ergonomic posture; and above all, we should consider that children and young people grow constantly and that they have different heights and sizes. Improved ergonomic positioning can improve their comfort and may even assist with reducing anxiety. Proper ergonomics suggests that students should sit having their feet firmly on the floor and their backs supported against the chair’s backrest.

Educational facilities should regularly update their planning studies and pedagogies to meet the new standards of education. Equally important is that school furniture also needs to keep up with trends and be able to adjust to pupils’ needs, allowing them movement, and helping them to have a good posture when seated. Three main reasons why schools do not use ergonomic furniture are: price, investment, and durability. Many schools look for hardy furniture at a low price because pupils don’t always take care of it. When this happens, durability is chosen over functionality – to the detriment of the pupils.

One way of improving awareness of the issue is to incorporate postural health education into schools – training courses and awareness days, not only within schools but also for parents. We believe that once enough awareness is raised, and the importance of the issue is highlighted, it could act as a driver, possibly helping to make it a greater priority. This can encourage schools to consider purchasing more ergonomically correct furniture when they are looking to replace their existing furniture.

This process is unfortunately not going to happen overnight, and schools do not have to immediately throw away their existing furniture. By introducing postural health education and raising awareness of its importance, the nation’s schools may be able to start to transition from cost-driven purchasing to investing in children’s future, postural health, and in doing so also positively affecting their comfort and productivity.

One of Ergonomicsdirect’s projects for 2023 is to introduce our Ergo-learner School Initiative, where we aim to partner with schools around the country to offer ergonomic products at a discounted rate.

We are beyond excited to make a difference in the postural health of South Africa’s youth – so watch this space!


 References

Choudhary, M. S., Choudary, A. B., Jamal, S., Kumar, R., & Jamal, S. (2020). The Impact of Ergonomics on Children Studying Online During COVID‐19 Lockdown.

Journal of Advances in Sports and Physical Education, 3(8), 117‐120. doi:10.36348/jaspe.2020.v03i08.001

Page AS, Cooper AR, Griew P, Jago R. Children’s screen viewing is related to psychological difficulties irrespective of physical activity. Pediatrics. 2010.

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