The Classroom: Where Learning Is Supposed to Happen
Obviously, students in higher education are very different from elementary school children. There is some degree of independence assumed from college students. There is no doubt that individual attention is necessary especially in kindergarten and during the early elementary years. One can also argue that even high school students as well as college students can benefit from individual attention. The environment is an important factor behind learning outcomes. Any school, no matter what the level is, becomes a second home to a student. On the teachers' side, elementary and high school instructors are spending their waking hours inside the school. A teacher's day-to-day life is likewise defined by the learning atmosphere.
|An elementary classroom in Masbate, Philippines
Above photos copied from Masbate Talks Facebook Page
Through this perspective, it is easier to appreciate the importance of class sizes in basic education. Assigning fifty students to a teacher in a first grade class harms both students and teacher. It is therefore no surprise that the fourth solution proposed by Ravitch in Reign of Error is about pupil to teacher ratio:
Solution No. 4 Reduce class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior.Indeed, this solution may even be more expensive than building classrooms. Reducing the number of students in a class requires hiring more teachers. Building classrooms is a one-time expense. Employing teachers is not. Personnel salary takes a large portion of the DepEd budget in the Philippines. This is the case for all school systems. Doubling the number of teachers certainly requires a substantial increase in the budget. Not doing so, however, is much more costly. Lower graduation rates, costly interventions, disruptive and disorderly behavior, failure in curriculum reform - These can all come simply because of a teacher's inability to provide individual attention to all students. The choice is to either spend now so that class sizes are brought to a manageable size, or do nothing and simply watch schools fail and then spend later on all the ills a failing basic education system can bring to society.