The Independent

MOE teacher backs Leon Perera’s suggestion that cutting class sizes can benefit students

A Ministry of Education teacher, Eugene Ng Ming Teck, is one among several others online who has expressed support for Workers’ Party (WP) member Leon Perera’s suggestion that cutting class sizes can benefit students.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday (7 Nov), the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) had cited studies showing how smaller class sizes could improve grades and student development and said:

“Smaller classes may help level the playing field and enhance equality of opportunity for students from disadvantaged families.”

Perera also called on the MOE to conduct a trial to find out whether slashing class sizes would have a positive impact on students’ results.

Besides this, Perera noted Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng comments in a previous parliamentary exchange on the same issue that smaller class sizes can be found in situations like remedial classes.

The WP member opined that attending remedial classes may stigmatise lower-performing students and affect their self-confidence, besides eating into students’ free time.

Ng Chee Meng responded:

“It is teachers and how they teach that makes a critical difference, not just the class size. We should not fixate on a single dimension of success in education.”

He added that MOE invests in teacher quality, which is the most decisive factor in educational outcomes, according to him: “Instead of reducing class sizes across the board, schools deploy teachers flexibly into smaller sizes for students who need the extra support.”

The MOE teacher, Mr Eugene, acknowledged that while the way a teacher delivers a lesson makes a difference in improving educational outcomes, “any teacher from the most capable to the least’ would agree that a smaller class size would help.

Outlining several reasons why having smaller class sizes would improve educational outcomes, Mr Eugene backed Perera’s suggestion and called for the government to halve class sizes.

He added that this would help Singapore rely less on a tuition classroom model, as well.

Netizens responding to the teacher’s post predominantly agreed with him:

Trevor Chan You also need to look at the type of students you have in the class, smaller class size just means higher chance of having lesser problematic kids to work with.

Lionel Fah I feel for this. My kids have benefitted from a smaller class size. In the U.K. and their current international school, the number of teachers to students is 1:12 in a class, I think it is wrong to “quantify” the success of teaching to exam results of kids. So, to even attempt to correlate the 2 together is a distraction to what education is about. I want my teachers to engage my children and stimulate them intellectually, develop their character and a positive mindset to what may come their way in the new world. Results is not the aim… agree with you totally Eugene Ng Ming Teck

Ahmad Matin They can implement this now as it is an opportune time. The merging of schools means that the problem of not having enough physical classes is not an issue. The reduction of intake for trainee teachers means that they could have not cut the intake and proceed to have smaller classes. But MOE still does not want to take this opportunity and insists on looking at teacher to student ratios.

One netizen offered an alternative viewpoint:

Melvin Cty: Having a smaller class size would certainly bring about some benefits at a class level. But at a systems level, it means having to hire more teachers which means we either have to pull talent away from another sector or we will need to lower the quality of teachers hired. Both ways of augmenting the teaching force have wider implications.

Mr Eugene responded:

“I think there is a run-on effect. A smaller size classroom leading to a more enlightened workforce could augment the entire economy. It also means more will want to teach. 

“Somehow I feel we going about it abit chicken and egg. Not sure where to start or how to do it. So better stick to tried and tested. But I thought the Teachers deserve to be heard on this issue.”

Read Mr Eugene’s full post here:

“It is teachers and how they teach that makes a critical difference, not just the class size.”
– EDUCATION MINISTER (SCHOOLS) NG CHEE MENG

I’m a teacher. I agree it’s not just class size but how a teacher delivers the lesson.

BUT ask any teacher from the most capable to the least and they would tell you a smaller sized class would:-

1. greatly facilitate learning
2. foster greater bond in teacher-student-peer relationships
3. deepen the depth or widen the scope of what can be taught
4. increase engagement between teacher and EACH student 
5. facilitate better classroom management
6. provide that little bit more space and time…just that little bit more…

To say that research is inconclusive on classroom size producing better results is in itself inconclusive.

Why not work towards an ideal? 
Why not be the change the world can see? 
If it was inconclusive why did MOE reduce P1 and P2 class sizes from 40 to 30 about 7 years ago? 
Why base on research when you can just talk to any teacher and they more or less would tell you:

“Yes! A smaller size class would help!”

How about a quick research data:-
Typical Singapore Primary class size : 35-42
Typical Singapore Tuition class size : 5-12

So why don’t we halve the SG School classroom and hopefully rely less on the tuition classroom?

There is always an ideal we can be.