School Furniture and Anthropometric Measures among Primary School Children

This study is a cross-sectional study with the objective to determine mismatch between school furniture and anthropometric measurement among primary school children in Mersing. The sample consisted of 91 primary school children (46 male and 45 female) from Year 2 and Year 5 in two schools in Mersing District, Malaysia. Seven anthropometric measurement (height, weight, popliteal height, buttock-popliteal length, hip breadth, shoulder height and elbow height while sitting) as well as 5 furniture dimensions (seat height, seat depth, seat width, backrest height and seat to desk height) were taken. Instruments used were Martyn type anthropometer set, ruler, height scale and weighing scale. Best Matriculation School Kumbakonam Differences between genders in anthropometric measurements were also investigated in this study. Findings showed 100% high mismatch for seat height, seat depth, desk height respectively while 56% match and only 44% mismatch for backrest height among Year 2 children. Year 5 students reported contrary result with 79% mismatch for seat height, 91% for backrest height and 100% for both seat depth and desk height. There was no significant difference between genders for both age groups. In conclusion, there was a mismatch between furniture and children’s anthropometric measurements. It is recommended that school furniture be redesigned so as to conform to the children’s physiological measurement. The use of adjustable furniture can be taken into consideration in designing new furniture for school environments in order to meet all the differences in children anthropometry.

A. Background Information of Respondents Five variables on Subject background were collected: age, sex, height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). The respondents were 50.5% male and 49.5% were female. A majority of the school children (51.6%) were in range of 120- 139 cm for height. Most students (64.8%) were in range of 15- 30 kg. The Asian categories for Body Mass Index (BMI), are classified as: underweight, normal, overweight and obese. In this study, a majority of the school children (67%) were underweight.

B. Anthropometric Measurements Differences among Age and Gender Groups Table II shows the differences in anthropometric measures between Year 2 and Year 5. There were significant differences (p<0.001) for all anthropometric measures. The difference was highest for shoulder height (t=-6.093, p<0.001). Among gender groups, there were no significant differences in anthropometric data between male and female school children in Year 2 where p> 0.05 for all of the anthropometric data as in Table III. Mean value for popliteal height (t=1.986, p=0.053) and shoulder height (t=0.787, p=0.436) of male was higher than for female. Similar results were obtained for Year 5 school children, except for shoulder height that showed significant different between male and female by which female had higher mean value for shoulder height as compared with male (t=-2.277, p= 0.028).

C. Mismatch between anthropometric measurements and furnitures In these proposed dimensions, two percentiles were used which are 5th and 95th percentile. For 5th percentile, value that has been chosen is the lowest value, while for 95th percentile, it is the highest value. The used of percentile was to ensure the proposed dimension will match about 95% of school children for two extreme group (smallest and biggest). Mismatch was categorized as high mismatch, low mismatch and match. High mismatch is when the minimum limits of the application measures equation is higher than the children anthropometric, low mismatch when the maximum limit of the application measures equation is lower than children anthropometric and when the children anthropometric is between the limits, it categorized as match. Figure 2, 3, 4 and 5 represent the percentage of match/mismatch for seat height, seat depth, backrest height and desk height respectively for Year 2 and Year 5. For Year 2, 100% high mismatch was reported for seat height, seat depth and desk height, 56% match for backrest height while 44% reported as low mismatch. Then, 100% low mismatch was observed for seat depth and desk height in Year 5. There were 79% low mismatch and 21% match reported for seat height among them. Moreover, for backrest height, majority of the Year 5 children reported as low mismatch by 91%, 7% are low mismatch while only 2% are match.

between Year 2 and Year 5, by which mean values of all anthropometric dimensions increase with increasing age [10]. This is a natural phenomenon as children are in a period of growing. Children age 6-12 tend to get taller at a steady pace, growing about 2.5 inches (6.35 centimeters) each year. This study found that there were no significant differences in anthropometric data between genders exception for shoulder height of Year 5 that shows the significant difference between male and female where female is higher mean value than male. Literature stated that there are gradually increase in all compared parameter of measurement, but no difference due to sex [8]. This can be explained by the growth spurt of a child. For girls, the growth spurt usually takes place around or after age ten and for boys it usually takes place around twelve and a half. Therefore, the significant differences between Year 2 children cannot be seen as they are still not undergoing rapid growth spurt or puberty. This growth is regulated by hormones that are genetically influenced. Parcells’ study [2] involved a total of 74 (37 male and 37 female) sixth-through eighth- grade students in a Michigan school district also found gender to be statistically significant. At an age when many more girls than boys have already entered puberty, developmental differences explain the gender differences. Different requirements of furniture dimensions had been reported for girls and boys which boys with stature greater than 126 cm required higher desks and chairs than girls of the same stature and had relatively higher popliteal and elbow distance [1]. Meanwhile, girls with stature more than 120 cm required larger depth and breadth of chairs than the boys because the girls’ buttock- popliteal length and hip breadth were more than the boys in the same age [1-2]. Furthermore, from 4 years of age until the onset of rapid growth in puberty (the adolescent growth spurt) the average rate of growth for boys and girls is about 5-6 cm/year. During this time, boy is slightly taller than the girl. This situation is temporarily reversed when girls reach their adolescent growth spurt at around 11 years old, about two years earlier than boys [14]. In addition, the growth spurt that initializes adolescence occurs earlier in females than in males. Many developmental psychologists said that girls tend to be a bit taller and heavier than boys from the age of 2 until about 9, when boys catch up [4]. Reference [8] conducted a study among Mazandaran/province Iran age range 6-11 years old shows significance testing of dimensions between boys and girls with the exception of vertical grip reach, stature and sitting height. For mismatch between children anthropometric and furniture, it can be clearly seen that mismatch occurs in mostly all of the parameter for Year 2 in which there are 100% high mismatch reported for seat height, seat depth and desk height. This findings were similar by previous study when they were also found that high mismatch was reported for seat height in all of the three school measured [5]. This shows that all of the children are using chair that was higher from them. Subsequently, the children were unable to support their feet on the floor and can increase the pressure on the posterior surface of the knee [7]. It shows that design of the furniture was made without ergonomic criteria. Reference [5] discovered only 14% of student’s popliteal height was appropriate to the seat height in 2 out of 3 schools and 28% in the third. In addition, seat to desk height was too high and mismatched 99% of the students in one school and 100% in the others. Moreover, findings indicate fewer than 20% of students can find acceptable chair/desk combinations. Most students are sitting in chairs with seats that are too high or too deep and at desks that are too high [2]. As we look at Year 5, low mismatch was reported in seat height (79%), backrest height (91%) and 100% for seat depth and desk height respectively. Low mismatch means that chair used was lower than the children. This can be explained by the used of the same size of furniture across the different age groups in school [2]. Low mismatch in seat depth would result in discomfort when their thigh was not fully being supported by the chair [9].