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Class Size And The Improvement Of Academic Performance - Essay Example

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Primary school pupils can achieve academic success only if they are taught in a small class. The prime purpose of the paper "Class Size And The Improvement Of Academic Performance" discusses the impact of class size on the academic performance of students…
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Class Size And The Improvement Of Academic Performance
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Primary school pupils can achieve academic success only if they are taught in small Primary school pupils can achieve academic success only if they are taught in small class
The impact of class size on the academic performance of students has been a matter of discussion for educationalists and scholars for quite some time now but the responses are quite varied and contradictory.
The first argument put forward by those who believe in the effectiveness of small class size is that reduced class size also means less noise and disturbance. In addition is the benefit of increased individual attention. When there is less disturbance and more personal attention, teachers get adequate time to promote classroom discussions. However, the only problem is that these claims are just hypothetic in nature. In other words, there is no empirical evidence to prove this case.
On the other hand, data availed from the National Assessment of Educational Progress proves that evidence is to the contrary. To illustrate, it was found that there was no significant improvement in the knowledge of students in reading, mathematics and science though the class size fell by 27% between 1969 and 1997 (cited in The influence of class size on academic achievement). In addition, there was a decline in certain subject areas like science. However, it is not possible to totally believe these results. This is so because in small classes, dropout rate will be much lower as compared to big classes (ibid). In fact, dropout often results in higher class-average test scores as the dropouts are often the low-scoring pupils. When small classes are formed, teachers and school authorities take care to avoid student dropout. Thus, the low-scoring ones take test along with other students and result in reduced class-average test scores.
However, though rational, this claim is limited by the fact that there is no empirical evidence to prove the case. In fact, it becomes difficult to gather accurate data in this connection because the academic performance of students is influenced by a large number of factors other than class size. Some such factors are family background, language and financial status. In order to make an effective analysis of the impact of class size on academic performance, all other factors need to be kept static.
The only study that tried to do so was the STAR study (Ehrenberg, R.G. et al 2001). The study took efforts to keep other factors like the quality of teaching static throughout the study. Then, it was found that there was an improvement of 0.2 standard deviation or more (ibid). Other studies like the California study and the SAGE study too provided similar results. While the California study only showed a meager rise in performance, the latter exhibited considerable improvement. However, before reaching a conclusion, it becomes necessary to answer the ‘Asian Paradox’ too.
Zorpette (2001) reports in the study named ‘The Asian paradox: huge classes, high scores’ that despite the huge size of classes, students in Asian nations like Japan have much higher scores in mathematics and science than their European and American counterparts. The scholar makes the observation that while the American and European schools totally rely on ‘reward and punish’ system to keep students focused, the Asian teachers are capable of utilising the element of self-reflection (ibid). In other words, students are given a chance to lead their class, and the feeling of group identity is developed successfully. In addition, Asian nations are marked by the presence of strong family bonds and absence of cultural and linguistic diversity (ibid).
From the discussion, it becomes evident that small class size is an insignificant factor in comparison with various other factors like teaching methods and cultural background. In other words, small class size leads to better performance only when teachers manage to effectively utilise the opportunity to improve interaction. However, it is possible to improve academic performance by improving classroom practices and family and social situations.
References
Ehrenberg, R.G et al, 2001. Does class size matter? Scientific American, 285 (5), pp. 78-85.
The Influence of class size on academic achievements
Zorpette, G. 2001. “The Asian Paradox”. In Does Class size matter? Scientific American, 285 (5), pp. 78-85. Read More
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