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There has been a raging debate as to whether or not class size is important in defining the value of education in the learning institutions. Some stakeholders have argued that class size plays an important role in determining the quality of education that learners get. According to Hacsi (45), class size is very important when looking for quality learning process. This view is held by various educationists.
However, there are those who believe that with the invention of assistive technologies in the education sector, class size may not be an important factor in determining the quality of learning. This school of thought has increasingly become relevant in the recent past following the rapid development of technology in the education sector.
This research will review both arguments by reviewing scholarly works and the arguments made by educators and other professionals in this field. The researcher seeks to determine the truth behind the argument that small classes are important in improving the quality of education.
Arguments for Small Classes
There has been a massive support for small class sizes as a way of improving the quality of education. According to Ozmon (47), there was almost a near unanimous belief among the stakeholders in the education sector that small classes help in improving the quality of education.
In order to understand the benefits gained from the small classes, it is important to look at the specific stakeholders who directly benefit from having small classes. According to Finn (73) small classes are very beneficial to learners in various ways. Having small sized classes make it easy for the learners to have a close attention to their teachers.
The increased accessibility of the teachers makes it easy for the learners to address the specific problems with the teachers that would improve the learning process. A student would find it easy to talk to the teacher and ask the relevant questions when a concept is not clearly understood. A student is also able to discuss the personal issues that are relevant to the leaning process with the teachers.
This will make it possible to identify the personal or family issues that may affect the learning process. Small class size also eliminates the scramble for resources within the classes. In crowded classrooms, learners are forced to struggle for such facilities as the learning materials and even seats.
This is very different when it comes to a small class size. When the size of the class is small, it is easy to distribute these resources to ensure that that every learner is taken care of effectively.
Teachers benefit a lot when they are assigned the small sized classes. According to Clauss (61), every teacher is always determined to ensure that his or her learners excel in their exams. They have the desire to have a team of successful students who may have positive impacts on the society in future.
Having small class sizes makes it easy to achieve success. A teacher is given an opportunity to have a close relationship with the individual learners. This way, he or she is able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the individual learners. Small classes are always manageable. It is easier to mark the works of the learners and engage them individually whenever it is apparent that a concept is still not clear.
According to Blatchford (66), there are cases when a teacher may need to interact closely with the parents or guardians, especially when dealing with the students with special needs. This may not be possible when handling classes with large sizes. When given a manageable class, a teacher may plan on when to meet these parents so that the problems of the learners can be addressed both at home and in school.
Finn (35) says that teachers also find it easy to share the school facilities when the population is small. It is easy to assign these resources to small groups to share than when dealing with a large population.
The parents may also benefit from small class sizes for their children.
The research by Bray (33) reveals that most parents are unable to follow the progress of their children in school. In most of the cases, there is no direct contact between parents and teachers. This has been blamed on the large class sizes that make it difficult for the teachers to understand their students.
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When a parent comes to follow up on the performance of their children, it takes time before being able to talk with the concerned teachers. When the parents finally get the opportunity to talk to the teacher, it is common to find that the teacher knows very little or nothing about the learner. This is an unpleasant experience that makes some of the parents to avoid regular visits to these schools.
The school’s administration also benefits a lot when the sizes of the classes are small. According to Clauss (76), when handling small classes, the administration will find it easy to monitor and control the behavior of the learners. There are cases where learners have gone on rampage, destroying properties and inflicting injuries on their colleagues or members of the public. Sometimes this may even lead to death.
The main reason why this may easily occur is because of large classes that are not easy to control. A group of educationists who were interviewed by Finn (62) revealed that the administration always find it challenging to manage the discipline of learners when the classes are crowded.
However, small classes make it easy for the administrators to detect the problems early enough. This way, the problems get to be addressed early enough before they can escalate into major administrative issues. The administration may also benefit from such classes when developing strategic plans for the schools. The small class sizes make it easy to identify the areas that need to be addressed.
Arguments against Small Classes
Despite the above arguments about class sizes, there are those who believe that a class size may not be an issue when addressing the quality of education in the learning institutions. According to Bray (23), as long as the classroom is not crowded, and that the teacher has the capacity to reach his or her audience within the classroom, issues about the size may not be problematic.
This view is shared by Blatchford (44) who says that the emergence of technology solves many problems in the education sector that existed before. When the classes are considerably large, a teacher can use the public address system. This eliminates the fear that some of the learners may not be in a position to get what the teacher says.
There are cases where learners use video conferencing in order to reach their students in various parts of the world. Video conferencing eliminates some of the problems that exist in a physical classroom set-up. This means that the issue of small class size is no longer a problem in the education sector. Blatchford (56) says that in many cases, critiques have failed to look at the benefits of large class sizes.
There are some benefits that come with such large class sizes. It is common to find a variety of talents that may be beneficial to the learning process. When the learners are allowed to interact in such environments, they are able to address some of their personal problems that may hinder their learning processes.
The Position of the Researcher
Upon the review of different views of various scholars, educationists, and other professionals in the education sector it has come out clearly that class size matters when addressing the issue of quality in the education sector.
The arguments demonstrate that the only way of having a close teacher student relationship is to have the manageable class sizes. When the classes are crowded, learners are forced to scramble for the few resources which are available, making it difficult to have a quality learning environment.
The discussion above clearly demonstrates that there are those who believe that class size is important while others have a contrary opinion. However, the researcher believes that the arguments given by the supporters of small class sizes have a stronger foundation.
Even with the emerging technologies, it is still important to have manageable class sizes. It is only through this that the teachers can have a direct interaction with the learners. Other stakeholders such as the school administrations and parents also benefit from such small class sizes.
Blatchford, Peter. The Class Size Debate. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill International Ltd, 2007. Print.
Bray, Melissa. The Oxford Handbook of School Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Clauss, Ehlers. Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural School Psychology. Boston, MA: Springer, 2010. Print.
Finn, Jeremy. Taking Small Classes One Step Further. Greenwich, Conn: Information Age Pub, 2002. Print.
Hacsi, Timothy A. Children As Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2002. Print.
Ozmon, Howard. Philosophical Foundations of Education. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson, 2012. Print.