Original Research

Classroom acoustics as a consideration for inclusive education in South Africa

Coralie van Reenen, Catherine Karusseit
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 64, No 1 | a550 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v64i1.550 | © 2017 Coralie van Reenen, Catherine Karusseit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 February 2017 | Published: 08 September 2017

About the author(s)

Coralie van Reenen, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa
Catherine Karusseit, Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria,, South Africa


Background: It can hardly be disputed that a school environment should be conducive or, at the very least, not prohibitive to effective learning. The provision of fair, equal and barrier-free access to education is referred to as inclusive education. South Africa supports a policy of inclusive schooling, striving to accommodate all children, including those with disabilities, in mainstream schools. This article sets out to prove that noise control in classrooms is a relevant, yet neglected, aspect of inclusive classroom design in South Africa and requires specific attention.

Objectives: The objectives of this study are to: (1) establish the impact that noise has on learners with sensory, language or learning impairments; (2) establish the preferred listening conditions for these learners by examining prior research and guidelines available in other countries; and (3) outline the current South African regulations pertaining to classroom acoustics and assess them against the preferred listening environment.

Method: This research was conducted as a systematic review with reference to the South African context. Local and international research and guidelines were used as references, providing an overview and evaluation of data concerning noise and learning.

Results: Noise is disadvantageous for learners, particularly those with sensory, language or learning impairments. Research and international guidelines show that the ideal ambient level is 30 dBA – 35 dBA, allowing the achievement of an ideal signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of +15 dB, and the ideal reverberation time is 0.4 s – 0.6 s. Various South African regulations discussed are inconsistent regarding ambient noise level (ranging from 35 dBA – 50 dBA) and say little about reverberation time for classrooms.

Conclusion: South African regulations regarding classroom acoustics require revision to ensure inclusion of all learners with disabilities. The current status does not enforce barrier-free environments in mainstream schools for children with sensory, language or learning impairments.


noise; classroom acoustics; inclusive education; norms; standards and regulations; children with disabilities; South Africa


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Crossref Citations

1. Academic benefits of wearing noise-cancelling headphones during class for typically developing students and students with special needs: A scoping review
Pawel R. Kulawiak, Deborah Schussler
Cogent Education  vol: 8  issue: 1  year: 2021  
doi: 10.1080/2331186X.2021.1957530