Classroom Lighting Fundamentals – Facilitate Learning and Reduce Overhead

Recessed classroom lightingClassrooms need good lighting in order to facilitate learning. From a practical standpoint, there needs to be enough of and the right kind of light to perform the functions of a school. Finally, lighting has been shown to improve morale and increase productivity in the workplace. That may carry over into learning environments like schools. Classroom lighting influences students’ circadian rhythms. Of course, the quality of sleep a student gets has a direct correlation with test scores, behavior, and student attendance. 

Fluorescent lighting systems are the most commonly used in schools today. Most of the focus in lighting design is towards energy and cost savings as opposed to optimizing for tasks.

Classrooms lighting basics

Lighting in classrooms is very important for the health of students. Lack of exposure to light has a negative impact on sleep cycles. These rhythms stimulate hormone production, sleep-wake cycle and core body temperature cycles. Short wavelength blue light in the daylight spectrum has especially good effects on human circadian rhythms. When these rhythms are disrupted, people are more vulnerable to sleep deprivation, mood disorders and other health problems.

Fluorescent lighting fixtures are most common in today’s schools and classrooms. The main reasons for the high adoption rate of fluorescent bulbs are low costs, good color and low levels of flicker and noise. Not enough schools, however, have developed different lighting levels in their classrooms. Many different tasks are being performed in these spaces, and there is often only one lighting level.

A good lighting designer and lighting audit are important tools to determine the best luminaires in the best locations for the tasks performed in a school such as reading, writing, and presentations. Each task has its own unique lighting considerations.

According to a survey at 20 primary schools, about 60 % of schools have fluorescent lights with installed power of more than 500 Watt. These fixtures are in many cases based on requirements that date from around 1980. Since then many things have changed. For example, computers have become a part of education in classrooms. A great portion of children with physical and mental disabilities attend traditional schools. These factors and vastly improved lighting technology dictate a re-imagining of lighting in schools including adopting LEDs in schools and using task lighting.

Other strategies like on and off switches placed separately in different zones in classrooms with a window zone, corridor zone and a blackboard zone are necessary will also increase lighting efficiency and improve the quality of light at the same time in classrooms.


Lighting in schools has a big influence on students’ health and mood. For students and teachers, it is essential that lighting meet their needs. To make lighting better, new school construction should consider LED lighting and using smart lighting systems with level controls and switches. Even educational facility lighting retrofits may benefit from upgrading their lighting design and systems.