Room to Learn: Tackling Overcrowding for Healthier School Communities

The critical issue of school overcrowding has significant implications for public health and the well-being of the nation’s children, their families, and teachers. Recent reports have highlighted the acute problem of overcrowded schools in Kota Kemuning and Cyberjaya, emphasising the immediate need for comprehensive solutions.

© Bernama

Overcrowded classrooms not only lead to cramped spaces and insufficient facilities but also pose significant risks to mental and physical health. Physically, overcrowded environments increase the spread of infectious diseases and compromise hygiene standards. We have learnt so much from COVID-19 that prioritising smaller size classes is not just about comfort, but a crucial measure to restrict outbreaks.

Additionally, there will be less opportunities for physical activities when there is inadequate space for children, contributing to obesity. School overcrowding can also strain the resources available for food preparation, leading to difficulties in sourcing nutritious ingredients and resulting in unhealthy eating.

The student-teacher interaction can diminish, as teachers struggle to adopt individualised attention and support to each student. Psychologically, students and teachers experience heightened stress, anxiety, and burnout, with very little support available to help them.

Collectively, these processes can hinder job performance among the teachers, and more importantly, academic performance among the students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This underperformance often perpetuates cycles of poverty, limiting opportunities for upward social mobility and economic advancement. Individuals trapped in poverty are more likely to experience poor health outcomes due to limited access to quality healthcare, nutritious food, and safe living conditions. The resulting health disparities further exacerbate economic inequality and hinder workforce productivity.

© Lan Rasso/Flickr

Addressing the root causes of health, such as school overcrowding, and breaking the cycles of poverty through targeted interventions and equitable access to education and healthcare are essential steps toward fostering a healthier population and unlocking the nation’s full economic potential. Such efforts require a multifaceted approach, including constructing additional schools, redistributing students, and implementing policies for equitable resource allocation.

Prioritising essential facilities like classrooms and recreational areas is vital to creating conducive learning environments. Advocacy for education infrastructure investment is crucial for ensuring all children have access to quality education within safe surroundings. By prioritising education infrastructure, implementing policies for equitable resource distribution, and advocating for proactive measures, we can ensure a healthier and more prosperous society.

Read more on New Straits Times | Overcrowded schools affect mental, physical health.


    Master of Public Health Candidate
    Department of Social and Preventive Medicine
    Faculty of Medicine
    Universiti Malaya
    Senior Lecturer
    Department of Social and Preventive Medicine
    Faculty of Medicine
    Universiti Malaya

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