p-ISSN: 2162-9463    e-ISSN: 2162-8467

2019;  9(3): 51-62



An Examination of School Buildings’ Physical Condition and Students’ Examination Performance

Harriet Eliufoo, Godwin Maro

School of Architecture and Construction Management, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Correspondence to: Harriet Eliufoo, School of Architecture and Construction Management, Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Scientific & Academic Publishing.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).


The study has examined the relationship between schools’ building physical condition and students’ examination performance in Tanzania. Data was collected through physical observation of schools’ building facilities and examination results from the National Examination Council of Tanzania for O-Level results for a period of seven years. A total of 97 government secondary schools were examined where a correlation analysis was made between a weighted physical condition status of a school and pass/fail ratio in examinations. The study has established though a positive correlation exists between a school’s physical condition and examination performance, such correlation is not of statistical significance.

Keywords: School buildings, Facility quality, Academic performance

Cite this paper: Harriet Eliufoo, Godwin Maro, An Examination of School Buildings’ Physical Condition and Students’ Examination Performance, Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, 2019, pp. 51-62. doi: 10.5923/

1. Introduction

Research conducted internationally has linked adequacy of school infrastructure facilities and student academic performance [1-8] and that actualization of goals and objectives of an education system is influenced by the physical of a school [9]. A poor physical learning environment environment is an endemic feature for many schools in developing countries [3,4,6,10-13]. Studies in Africa region have reiterated the same problem of poor physical infrastructure in school facilities [13-16]. The situation is however reported relatively better for private schools when compared to government schools [3,13].
Views differ on the causality of a school’s physical condition and student academic performance [9,17-19]. The 12th Architecture and Behaviour colloquium [17] addressing the concern on the relevance of building facility to student’s learning was however reported not to be conclusive; likewise, an OECD program for International Students Association (PISA), Education at a Glance: 2006 Edition had nonetheless indicated a negligible net effect of a school’s physical infrastructure and student performance. A tentative notion of a link between schools physical environment and student performance was nevertheless given in [19] and confirmed in later studies [20]. The later study linked building design to reading vocabulary, comprehension, language arts and mathematical science. Quality of school facilities and association with student academic achievement in english and mathematics had similarly been linked [21]. A more recent study has also echoed on the vital role of building facilities in the delivery of quality education [22].
Declining performance of quality of education in Tanzania has been linked to a learning environment that is not conducive to learning. Lack of classrooms, toilets, water, and electricity and inadequate number of motivated teachers is stated to contribute to poor learning outcomes at both primary and secondary levels [13]. A 13 year track record of students’ performance at secondary schools for the O-level (Form Four) examinations showed consistently over the 13 years, majority of students being in the lowest division category (division iv); with percentage student failure in particular years exceeding 50% [13].
A physical condition survey of government secondary schools in 2016 of which the authors were part of the team had indicated noticeable inadequacies of school building facilities. Such findings prompted the authors to empirically explore the influence of such physical buildings’ condition to student academic performance. It is from such a background that this study had set to investigate the association between school buildings’ physical condition and students’ academic performance.

2. Methods

Government owned schools in Tanzania as of year 2016 formed a majority of total secondary schools. From a total of 4,759 secondary schools, public schools totalled 3,614 while private schools were 1,145 [23]. Study area regions selected for this study represented part of a commissioned study of establishing the status of physical condition of secondary schools building facilities in the North-Eastern part of the country.
Data was collected in 6 out of 26 regions that form mainland Tanzania, hence forming a representative sample of 23% in terms of spatial representation. Administratively these six regions represented a total of 32 District councils, 4 Municipal/ Town/City council. A total of 97 government owned secondary schools in Tanzania were hence investigated. The respective administrative authority covered in the sample are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Summary Table of administrative status of sample study
Frameworks that assess physical condition of schools’ facility vary particularly from studies of first world countries [7,24] and developing countries [25]. This study has used functionality as a key assessment criterion amongst others. Additional assessment criteria for physical condition of schools’ facilities were borrowed from [25-28]. These studies had defined a quality educational facility as one that is “fit for purpose in relation to the users’ needs and one that provides a healthy and safe environment” [26]; had also indicated the scope of assessing the physical condition includes looking at the quality of maintenance of rest rooms, building facility ventilation, ceiling, walls, floor condition, classroom size and space [24,25,27]. This study has limited the investigation of schools’ building facilities to classrooms, laboratories, toilets and staff house buildings. These were taken as they represent typical building facility existing for any secondary school in Tanzania.
Observatory data was used to assess the status of physical condition of the building facility in the schools. A weighted system was introduced in the assessment to reflect the building condition.
The assessment of a school building facility had three criteria: functionality, conformance to standards and safety for use. The assessment criteria were weighted based on the school’s physical condition. Where numerical values ranging from 4-1 were given as such: 4= building is functional and conforms to standards; 3= building is functional; 2= building is sub-standard but functional; 1= building is unsafe for use and not functional.
Academic performance of students in respective schools was measured based on examination results of Certificate of Secondary Examination (CSEE) that is being administered by the National Examination Council of Tanzania. (NECTA). The assessment criteria adopted the grading system of NECTA, where: division I = outstanding performance; division II= excellent performance; division III=good performance; division IV=low performance; division Zero= unsatisfactory performance [NECTA]. As the examination council categorizes division I – IV as “Pass” and division zero as “Fail” these were equally adopted by the study.
Students examination performance for secondary schools as per the results of the National Examination Council of Tanzania for a period of 7 years (2012 - 2018) were obtained. The percentage of students that had passed/ failed in a school over the stated period was used as a measure of its academic performance. A pass/fail ratio was subsequently established.

3. Results

The calculated pass/fail ratio of the National secondary school examination for the period 2012 – 2018 for each school is shown in table 4 (see appendix “A”); the results show pass/fail ratio varying significantly from school to school. The analysis shows highest percentage pass of students during the study period is 94.48% with a pass/fail ratio of 17.11 and lowest performing school with a percentage pass of 27.28% and a pass/fail ratio of 0.38.
An evaluation of the physical condition of the schools’ building facilities in all the 97 cases was done. Each building facility (classroom, staff houses, laboratory and toilets) was taken to have equal importance for the school functioning. An assessment of the building condition was guided by a weighting system as explained. Table 5 (see appendix “B”) shows results of condition assessment of the 97 cases.
The results show the mean physical condition of building facility likewise varying from case to case; notably some schools scored zero for laboratory building facilities. From the two sets of data (see table 2), a correlation analysis was subsequently pursued to test association between physical condition of school building facility and pass/fail ratio for each school. See table 3.
Table 2. Physical condition of building facility and examination performance scores

4. Discussions

The correlation analysis made between physical conditions of a school’s building facility and pass/ fail ratio of the O- Level examination in the 97 secondary schools indicated a weak positive correlation of 0.07 .A further test was made to establish if the correlation was of any statistical significance. Alpha was taken at 0.05, the results gave a p-value of 0.4886 implying the correlation is not of statistical significance. See table 3.
Table 3. Correlation analysis school condition and pass/fail ratio
The study’s outcome does not fully conform to those works that are of a view that physical condition of a school’s building facility has no influence to students’ academic performance [9,18,19]. One of these studies had arguably stated that though quantitative studies suggest some link between learning environment and school performance, direct causal relationship is still unclear [9]. The study results however conform to a recent OECD report [28] that has claimed that schools that are overcrowded, inadequately maintained, lacking facilities for conducive learning to students, have a potential of thwarting an educational system pursuit for excellence. Other notable studies that had shown a positive correlation are that of [2-4,7,12,15,27,29]. The fact that a positive association has been found by the study not to be of statistical significance, is however viewed by the authors that the potential for it thwarting or hampering the quality of education is still eminent. This has been evidenced in a similar study by Tanner [19]. Additionally another study that had explored the impact of improved conditions [8] further reinforce the results obtained of a positive relationship, as students performance had improved with improved building conditions. Henceforth the study supports efforts echoed towards investment in schools infrastructure [30] and the integration of facilities management and educational decisions [31].

4.1. Limitations

The authors acknowledge the limitation of a single parameter, the physical condition of the schools being used to assess causality with student performance. Other limitations include the non - identification of heterogeneity of the secondary schools investigated; as the case schools vary in size, age of building, educational programs and geographical location. Such differences also explain the variation in the physical condition as noted by the study and supports the view that spending on physical resources in school facilities is a function of size, location of school, age, and education program [17]. All these features are considered by the authors could have provided a more informative research study. Nevertheless such limitation are considered not to have affected the outcome of the study.


The authors acknowledge the contribution of team members Catherine Bhoke and Victor Malewo who had participated in the conditional survey of the secondary schools.

Appendix A

Table 4. Pass/fail ratio of schools

Appendix B

Table 5. Physical condition school buildings


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