Class Sizes – Myths and Facts

Everyone wants to believe that there are some really simple ways to gauge whether education is good, bad or indifferent. One ‘symbolic figure’ that parents, politicians and others have frequently latched on to is class size. The logic is simple – small class = good, big class = bad.

However, it’s actually proved far more complex than that, as is highlighted by the two articles below. The first article, from the US looks at the way a trend of reducing class sizes with massive government investment is now reversing as the need for government austerity kicks in. The second article sees Japanese schools investing to reduce class sizes.

The fact is that as much as teacher unions and parent bodies worry about class size, it’s not nearly as important as they want to believe. The reason is that there are a whole mass of things that relate to ‘how’ things are happening in the classroom, whole school culture etc. that are far more important when it comes to quality of learning.

The fact is that the quality of learning experience for each child is determined by skills, artistry and dedication of passionate teachers for whom what they do is a calling and a vocation – not a J.O.B. and a salary cheque. You can’t bottle it, package it or multiply it with simplistic, trite objectives around things like class size.

USA Today Article
Japan Today Article


4 Responses

  1. Enjoy these links and pieces you put up.

    And thought this would be a great place to share a link [maybe you have already shared it here]:

    Ways of educating ourselves and our kids is fast being redefined .. the physical class room is important .. but there is a rising tide that is dissolving the real time barriers of classrooms and merging it and making it a more global and accessible experience.

    One might one day be able to find the teacher one is looking for online .. we all have different ways of learning .. and we learn best from those who speak ‘our language’ and get what is our weakness or strength.


  2. It may be a good learning exercise to delve into the reasons that is prompting Japan to move to a class of 35 from 40. Maybe the US and the Japan case studies converge to present the case for an optimum sized classroom.
    Nevertheless, completely agree with Mark, it may not be material (on absolute terms) for a passionate teacher who keeps a student at the centre of her attention.

  3. I have got used to our class strength of 29-30 students. However, it is the space crunch that really throws up a huge challenge!! A more creative and interactive seating arrangement is impossible. When students are seated in clusters of their choice, then moving around becomes a big hurdle..literally. I dream of a magical architectural change to not only accommodate children but also create corners for reading, discovery corners,drama/puppet/play acting area and my favourite would be a corner with cusions on the floors -a place to relax and read….!!! In such a children friendly /oriented design of a classroom …number of kids should not really matter ….

  4. Dear Mark,

    Really impressed with this statement:
    “passionate teachers for whom what they do is a calling and a vocation – not a J.O.B. and a salary cheque”

    You concluded beautifully. The reason it clicked with me was, that exactly has been my conclusion after lot of schools in and around Gurgaon.

    Ashish Gilotra
    Director – Engineering
    Hughes Systique
    ( Hughes – India R&D center)

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