Bad acoustics in schools could put foreign students at a disadvantage

The phenomenon that students with foreign backgrounds generally get worse grades in school than their peers may have to do with poor acoustics in the classrooms, reports Swedish Radio News.

Research shows that it is harder to understand all the sounds in a language that is not one's mother tongue.

Stig Arlinger, a professor of audiology at Linköping University, explains that if the environment is noisy, then students who lack Swedish as a mother tongue have to concentrate extra hard in order to understand what is being said, and then they have less energy left in their brains in order to store the information, remember it, and learn it, he says.

Akalla F-9 school in northwestern Stockholm, where just one in every seven students has Swedish as a native language, has been equipped with panels and insulation in the classrooms, corridors, cafeteria, and freetime area. The panels have worked to cut down on echoes and noise, according to the vice principal, Ingela Molin.

Aalaa Tarnini, a student at the school in Akalla, has noticed the difference since the school moved to the new location with all acoustic panelling everywhere.

"There's much more peace and quiet," says Tarnini. "It's easier to concentrate."