Most teachers agree that smaller classes means more focused, enhanced learning. But new international research has revealed that, rather shockingly, smaller classes often equate to lower teacher pay – without much evidence they lead to better results.
The BBC writes that reducing class sizes has been a big trend over the past decade. Class sizes fell 6% on average between 2006 and 2014 in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – which include the majority of Western Europe and Japan, Australia and the US.
It’s expected smaller classes mean more personalised teaching and behaviour improvements – when all other factors are equal, test results do show better performance from pupils in smaller classes.
Yet when it comes to school investment, there seems to always be a trade-off. When education budgets are allocated to reducing class sizes, figures show there are typically reductions in other areas – especially in teacher pay.
Across the education system, smaller classes mean more classes, and more classes mean more teachers and higher costs to pay all their salaries.
The OECD said that to balance out the costs of cutting class sizes by just one pupil, teacher pay would need to be cut by over $3,000 (£2,320) a year in over half the member countries.
In Switzerland and Germany this would mean lowering pay by more than $4,000 (£3,100) and by more than $3,000 (£2,320) in countries like the US, Finland, Australia and Spain.
As the BBC writes, these ‘trade-offs’ are now showing themselves in the bigger picture; lower secondary teachers are now paid just 88% of other full-time graduates.
This is undoubtedly feeding into the teacher recruitment crisis. OECD figures show that average teacher pay rose by just 6% between 2005 and 2015 after inflation. In a third of the 30+ member countries, there was in real-terms decline in pay.
Of course there are other factors impacting pay, but so says the BBC, reducing class sizes will mean taking money that could be spent elsewhere.
The BBC concludes that there’s no direct link between education systems with smaller classes and improved education. Recent Pisa results, for instance, show no association between average class size and science performance, while some East Asian countries top the lists for biggest class sizes and highest performance.
What we can’t help but think is how these countries with huge classes are maintaining behaviour and progress. There’s definitely scope for more research – what do you think?
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