An article in the Christchurch Press today repeats the, in my opinion, flawed suggestion that class size doesn’t matter in our schools. This claim by Professor John Hattie of Auckland University will no doubt draw criticism from those at the coal face of New Zealand’s education system – school teachers.
In the Press article they give the example of a school in Norfolk which has grouped all year 3 students into a class of 70 students. However, this class has two teachers and three teacher aides affording a staff to student ratio of 1 to 15. Hardly a fair example, when the intention of the current government seems to be to increase the number of students per teacher.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to look more closely at Professor Hattie’s research, the examples in the Press describe schools in Japan and Korea having up to 50 students per class. However, the substantially different culture and attitude to education in these countries has to be considered in trying to translate any such approach to New Zealand. In New Zealand school teachers are often expected to deal with the behavioural issues of one or more students in their classes as well as actually teaching. Furthermore, the rules and responsibilities of teachers in New Zealand will differ from those in other countries.
Previously, I posted about education in New Zealand (here), including a video clip from Sir Ken Robinson, a leading proponent for change in the UK education system to encourage creativity and innovation, and to nurture the unique talents of individual students. It seems to me that increasing class size only maintains a production line approach to education – churning out students who make do with their ration of education and most leaving school uninspired and uninterested, while those who don’t fit the status quo fall by the wayside.
Surely if we have any hope of producing a better future for New Zealand it would be by providing an education system which gives students time with enthused and energised teachers who allow children to develop to their full potential?