Yet again the topic of class size in schools is in the news. A report from Treasury is suggesting that schools increase class sizes as a cost cutting measure for the government. It is disturbing to see it reported that Finance Minister Bill English has made comments that there is “clear evidence” that class size doesn’t matter. As someone who taught high school for a very short period of time about 18 years ago I can tell you from experience class size certainly does matter, particularly we we consider the many expectations that have been placed on teachers and schools over the years – all of the marking and the feedback, the expectation that schools provide sporting coaches and healthy eating advice to students, and most recently that teachers may be legally obliged to watch more carefully for abused children.
Some classes around New Zealand already exceed 35 students, which if you consider that on an individual basis equates to less that 1.5 minutes of teacher time per student. Treasury is recommending the educational equivalent of battery farming. We already have students who fall out of the system, do we really want more to follow?
If we seriously want our children to succeed there needs to be a push for smaller classes, not larger. In the long run, the benefits from the improved educational outcomes should outweigh the initial costs. (after the very good point made by Dave below I’m retracting this comment. In determining how to better serve the educational needs of our children, I think much more needs to be considered than just class size).
I think this cartoon from the Christchurch Press somes things up very nicely.