Do Class Sizes Make a Difference?by Isbi Schools
The average class size in a state secondary school is 20.4 children, whereas the average class size in an independent school is fifteen. But does class size make a difference when it comes to education?
Most of us tend to believe that a smaller class means better grades because the teacher will be able to give the children more attention - but according to Andreas Schleicher, OECT Director of Education and Skills (responsible for Pisa testing), smaller class sizes do not raise educational standards.
In an article for the BBC, Schleicher listed seven myths about education, and number four was that smaller class sizes raise standards. Schleicher states that Pisa results show no relationship between class sizes and learning outcomes. He also noted that the highest performing education systems tend to prioritise better teachers over smaller class sizes, investing in competititve teacher salaries, professional development and balance in working time.
Does this mean that we should not care about class sizes in our schools? An important point to note here is that the ongoing debate over class sizes tends to focus only on educational achievement. Teachers who know there is a test coming up will always do their best to ensure every child does well in it. What we often don't consider are other aspects of the classroom environment: relationships, discipline and catering for children with additional needs.
With fewer children to watch over, a teacher will always be able to offer more care and attention, to spend more time with each pupil and to offer more guidance and pastoral care where needed. It is easier to keep fifteen children in check, on task and behaving nicely, to monitor bad behaviour or monitor potential bullying or arguing. With more children in the class, with the best will in the world such things can easily fly under the radar.
Our children spend so much of their time in school, and they learn more than just what they need to know to pass the next test. Whether we intend it or not, they learn things like coping skills, how to behave and how to interact with others. Teachers who are able to spend more time with each child and pay more attention to them will show them more than just how to construct a sentence or solve an equation.
If we measure a child's education only by test scores then Schleicher is right: class size is probably irrelevant, as shown by the Pisa scores. It is worth bearing in mind though that education is so much more than test scores. If we measure a child's education by what they learn above and beyond test scores, class size becomes so much more importantin allowing children to learn, develop and grow.