Another dot in the blogosphere?

Hazy reasoning

Posted on: September 18, 2016

Singapore used to have just two seasons: Hot and humid, and hot and rainy.

A generation of kids has now grown up with another season thanks to neighbourly land-clearing by fire. I am talking about the haze.

The seasonal haze is no joke and schools take the matter seriously because exams and results are at stake. Oh, and the health of kids is important too.

To remind us how important this matter is, STonline published Making sure haze won’t cloud exam season.

How does a newspaper get away with an article that seems to have been based on a template or an older article with the names changed?

If we let the rhetoric wash over us, the air purifiers are a godsend to schools trying to conduct end-of-year exams under threat of the seasonal haze.

Examine more critically what the context is for most mainstream schools: Non-air-conditioned classrooms with about 30 to 40 students in each room (in the case of primary schools).

Now try doing this on your own in a non-air-conditioned room at home in the day with the door and windows closed. Keep a fan running if you must, but see how long it takes before it feels hot and stuffy. Then consider a larger room you are forced to share with other people. They also happen to breathe, cough, sneeze, and fart.

In the event of severe deterioration of air quality, a classroom teacher has to balance allowing airflow (since we produce carbon dioxide and heat) and trying to filter toxins and particulate matter from outside air.

This was MOE’s statement, not mine.

… if the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index is in the very unhealthy range of 201 to 300, doors and windows would be closed and air purifiers turned on.

“Schools have been advised to reopen windows or doors periodically or when the outdoor air quality improves to provide better ventilation and relief from thermal heat build-up in the classrooms,” said an MOE spokesman.

Assuming the air filters are of suitable capacity, they only work optimally in a closed space. They do not work with a cuckoo clock strategy.

Imagine this scenario. The haze is bad and all teachers close the classroom doors and windows tightly shut and switch on the air purifiers and fans. The classroom gets stuffy and the teacher has to periodically open the windows and doors for the air to circulate.

Oops. The stale air indoors is replaced with the toxic air outside.

Oops again. How does a teacher decide when to do this? Is the decision based on timing, the feeling of stuffiness, or a scientific measurement of temperature and carbon dioxide levels?

Am I overthinking this? No, not when you realise that some people with the means provide air-conditioned rooms for their pets and valued collectibles.

Are you going to point out that you were schooled in an oven-like attap hut and that kids are too soft these days? Are you pointing this out from your air-conditioned office or home? In your (and my) time there was no haze and you (and I) could merrily catch spiders without worrying much about exams or grades.

Just because someone official deems a practice safe or acceptable does not make it right.

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