Should we paint all classroom roofs white to improve learning in Tanzania?

Resource type
Should we paint all classroom roofs white to improve learning in Tanzania?
A growing literature base has developed from Global North contexts, showing a clear link between classroom temperature and student learning outcomes. However, very little evidence shows how this impact translates to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where average classroom temperatures are often high. The hypothesis for the research was that classroom temperatures in Tanzania are high and that a white-paint-cool-roof intervention would help mitigate these high temperatures. This study includes a literature review to understand the classroom policy in Tanzania, establish links between temperature and learning, and assess temperature retrofit options. Following this, the study presents the results of an experiment to trial a white-paint cool roof against a blue-paint roof and an unpainted control roof. Finally, data analysis predicts the intervention effects over an entire year and the subsequent impact on learning outcomes. The learning outcomes analysis includes a cost-effectiveness analysis using the Learning-Adjusted Years of Schooling (LAYS) metric. Empirical evidence of temperatures inside classrooms in Dar Es Salaam suggests that the temperature often exceeds 40℃. Literature searches indicate that this is the first time classroom air temperatures have been recorded and published for East Africa. The experiment involved using a low-cost retrofit intervention to reduce temperature – by painting the classroom roof blue or white over eight days. Results showed that the White Paint Intervention (WPI) reduced the temperature by around 3.7℃ over the course of the school day and up to a maximum of 5℃. The WPI was roughly twice as effective as the Blue Paint Intervention at reducing interior air temperatures. The WPI results were then modelled to estimate the classroom temperature reduction over a year, based on the assumed 3.5℃ reduction. Finally, using estimates from the existing literature, the learning impact of the intervention was calculated. The results suggest that using the WPI intervention can improve learning by 7.1%, which translates to an estimated 3.2 LAYS per classroom per year, at a cost-effectiveness of 5.3 LAYS per USD100. The paper shows that the impact of high temperatures in classrooms is likely undermining the funding currently channelled to improve learning outcomes in the region. Further, a WPI retrofit intervention is effective at reducing classroom temperatures in Tanzania. Due to climate-change-induced temperature increases, the intervention effectiveness is likely to increase over the coming decades. This paper was submitted as a dissertation in fulfilment of an MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, Powys (Wales)
Report Type
Working Paper
Call Number
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
DOI: 10.53832/edtechhub.0122 ZenodoArchiveID: 7139243 ZenodoArchiveConcept: 7139242
Proctor, J. (2022). Should we paint all classroom roofs white to improve learning in Tanzania? [Working Paper].