WHY SMALL IS BIG
DECREASING CLASSROOM SIZE
Smaller classroom sizes are better for teachers and students. Current classroom sizes have an average of 35 students in primary school, about 38 – 40 students in secondary and about 28 – 30 students in primary 1 and 2. In most developed countries primary and secondary classroom sizes hover around 20 – 25.
Let’s try it out
Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera called on the MOE in Parliament to conduct a trial here to find out if reduced sizes could improve students’ results, citing academic studies that have shown how this could improve grades and students’ holistic development.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, the MOE said the form class size is only one facet of how it organises its pool of resources. The OECD’s research, it said, has shown that between reducing class sizes and investing in teacher quality, the latter provides for better educational outcomes for students.
“We are confident that this emphasis on teacher quality would result in better educational outcomes for our students, which cannot be achieved by just blindly reducing form class sizes across the board,” said a spokesman. If it assigned one teacher for a class of 16 pupils – which was the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) for primary schools last year, every primary school teacher would only be teaching in front of a class, with no time left for other activities such as lesson preparation, co-curricular activities or having small-group consultations. – MOE in response to Straits Times queries.
Is 30 the magic number?
Even in tuition centres it is rare that classroom sizes go beyond 30, compared to up to 40 students in some secondary schools.
MOE must ensure that teachers do have time for their other requirements such as CCAs and lesson preparations. A small classroom size will actually require teachers to teach more classes. This is concurrent with the views by MOE on reducing classroom sizes as mentioned earlier.
MOE will need to thoroughly assess the reduction of classroom sizes. It might be beneficial to each student as there is more time with the teachers. However, it needs to be feasible and effective for the whole education ecosystem, involving teachers and school management.