class size in Singapore

Former Secondary Math Teacher with over ten years of experience Mrs Elizabeth Ong shares her views:

Talk to any teachers or parents and you will surely hear mixed responses on what exactly should be the ideal class size in school. Being a former teacher, I am definitely for the (piped) dream of having a smaller class size, simply because it would allow me to get to know my students better and dedicate more resources towards them.

My sentiments are shared by others. According to a study by Princeton University professors, one of the key advantages of having smaller class sizes is that teachers are able to get to know their students better, and can build stronger relationships. The Princeton study also noted that students who were in schools with smaller class sizes scored higher on achievement tests, even when they were no longer in a smaller-class-size model school.

Currently, the average class size in Singapore for mainstream schools (primary and secondary) can go up to 40 students per class. Each class usually have a Lead Form Teacher and one or two Co-Form Teachers (usually for Normal Technical or Academic Classes which will cease to exist by 2024.) In the recent years, MOE has gradually been trying to increase the Teacher to Student ratio by having some classes to be conducted by two Teachers, one leading and the other facilitating. MOE has also hired more Allied Educators that can support Teachers during lessons administratively or reaching out to “weaker” students that need more guidance.

It is no secret that teachers find it more challenging to work with students in classes larger than 25 or 30 students. Large classrooms make discussion and group work more difficult. A study conducted by three professors at the University of London found that in larger classrooms, students were definitely less engaged. What was most surprising to the professors was that students who disengaged were the students struggling most in school. Also, the teacher had more negative behaviors to address with students who were having difficulty in school.

Will there ever be a day where our class size in government schools will shrink to just 20 per class? Perhaps.

In the upcoming GE 2020 election in Singapore, the worker’s party is proposing that reform as part of their manifesto.

Here are some of the proposals WP laid out in its manifesto:

SMALLER CLASSES

  • Prune average class sizes to 20 — from the present 29 to 34 in primary and secondary schools
  • In nations that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose membership comprises mostly rich countries, the average class size is between 21 and 24
  • The smaller classes should be instituted progressively, with academically weaker students benefiting first. Priority should be given to foundational subjects in primary schools and Normal stream subjects in secondary schools

Although there are numerous advantages when it comes to having a small class size, yet there are similar benefits that we should recognize when it comes to having a larger class can offer. Other than easing the taxpayer’s pockets due to economics of scale, a larger class size can actually promote diversity and having more students in a class often translate to higher energy and fun. Classes will go by quicker and are less boring, students may also indirectly become more independent because teachers would not be able to pay too much attention to them.

A smaller class size may be a pie in the sky for now. Most parents would definitely wish that it can be realised soon. In the meantime, finding tutors can definitely help support your children’s academic journey. For math tuition by former MOE teachers , please contact here.

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