Parliamentary Replies

April 09, 2012

Target Class Size in Primary and Secondary Schools

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Mr Liang Eng Hwa, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (a) how many primary and secondary schools currently have class sizes of 40 students and above; (b) what is the Ministry’s targeted class size for primary and secondary schools; and (c) when the target can be achieved.

Response

Most primary and secondary schools have classes of 40 students or fewer, while Primary 1 and 2 classes have 30 students or fewer. We plan on the basis of 30 students per class at primary 1 and 2 and 40 students per class at the other primary and secondary levels.

While a smaller class size may be intuitively appealing, empirical evidence on the benefits of a smaller class size remains inconclusive. Studies have shown that teacher quality is the most important factor in achieving better student outcomes. Hence, MOE’s focus is on raising the quality of teachers, even as we increase our recruitment of teachers.

Without compromising teacher quality, our approach has been to progressively deploy more teachers to the schools while giving schools the flexibility to decide on how best to deploy their teachers to meet the needs of their students. This may involve reducing class size for certain subjects or student profiles. For example, in Design & Technology and Home Economics, where students may be required to operate machinery or equipment, the class size is usually 20. Learning support programmes for Primary 1-2 students with difficulties in basic literacy and numeracy skills are conducted in small groups of eight to 10 students. Some schools also deploy two teachers in a class of 40 students—one teacher brings the class through the curriculum, while the other teacher assists specific students who may have difficulty understanding the materials being covered.

Thus, while the Ministry does not mandate targets for class size, we plan to improve the pupil teacher ratio from 18 and 15 at the primary and secondary levels to 16 and 13 by 2015 when the Education Service grows to 33,000 Education Officers. This will ensure that our schools are well-resourced so that they can organise learning to best meet the needs of our students.