COS 2013 Debates: MOE – Class size in schools (NCMP Yee Jenn Jong)

By Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong
[Delivered in Committee of Supply on 13 March 2013]

Most schools in Singapore have a class size of around 40, while Primary 1 and 2 classes have 30 students. This is large compared to the OECD’s average of 21 per class.

There are drawbacks of a large class. Teachers have to deal with more disciplinary and administrative issues, while weaker children risked being marginalised because the teacher’s time is divided amongst many students. MOE has previously said that “empirical evidence on the benefits of a smaller class size remains inconclusive.”

The Brookings Institution notes that large class-size reductions can have significant long-term effects on students’ achievement. These effects seem to be largest when introduced earlier, and for students from less advantaged backgrounds.

The Tennessee STAR and the follow-up Wisconsin SAGE projects demonstrated the positive effects of smaller classes on students’ cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. These effects persisted throughout the school life of the students. Other studies also show smaller classes have benefited disadvantaged students.

Class size reduction is not the magic bullet to better student development. It has to be implemented together with other holistic policies.

MOE saw it beneficial to have class size of 25 for gifted students. I hope such benefits can apply to all primary levels. I urge MOE to extend class size of 30 to primary 3 and 4 and eventually across all primary levels.