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Does Singapore need smaller class sizes — Jamus Lim, Hazel Poa, ask MOE

Class sizes bigger not because Singapore has fewer teachers, but they spend more time on students' holistic development

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Singapore— Workers’ Party’s Dr Jamus Lim and Progress Singapore Party’s Ms Hazel Poa spoke about the benefits of smaller classes in schools on Wednesday (March 3). They were speaking during the Ministry of Education (MOE) Committee of Supply Debate in Parliament.

Dr Jamus Lim (Workers’ Party – Sengkang GRC) asked the MOE if Singapore’s class sizes could be limited to 23, which is the average class size in OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. 

In Singapore, the class size is at 33 students per class in primary and secondary schools, according to 2019 statistics, one of the highest among advanced countries.

Capping class sizes at 23, especially for subjects that students find the most challenging, such as languages and maths, would decrease the money households spend on private tuition, an expense Dr Lim characterised as an “implicit tax” on families.

Additionally, smaller class sizes would benefit pupils coming from lower-income families, which would level the playing field for them.

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Also, reducing the number of students would lessen teachers’ workloads and free up their time to give more attention to students who need it.

Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Hazel Poa also called for smaller class sizes, as this would ensure better academic results for learners, and decrease teachers’ mental and emotional load.

She added that smaller class sizes would add to wider diversity and differentiated learning into Singapore’s education system.  

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, in response, said he hopes that the MPs understand that Singapore’s class size is larger than in OECD countries not because the country has fewer teachers.

Rather, “a larger share of our teachers’ time” is allotted “to activities that are crucial for students’ holistic development, such as CCAs, lesson preparation, and professional development”, he said.

He underlined the OE’s commitment to ensuring Singapore has a high-quality teaching force and a healthy pupil-teacher-ratio. 

The minister cited the improvement in the pupil-teacher-ratio over the years. In 2010, it was at 19 and 16 for primary and secondary levels, and today it is at around 15 and 12 respectively.

“So the question is really about how we choose to allocate our teachers across our education system. Today, we are deliberate in deploying them where they can maximise their impact as part of our needs-based resourcing approach. So we deploy more teachers for students at the earliest grade levels or with greater needs,” Mr Wong said.

He added that research has shown that it is the quality of teachers that is crucial in student learning and performance outcomes.

Later, the minister thanked Dr Lim for recognising the hard work teachers do in Singapore’s schools and told him, “I think we are on the same page.”

/TISG

Read also: Lawrence Wong: MOE will continue to deal with gender issues with sensitivity, compassion

Lawrence Wong: MOE will continue to deal with gender issues with sensitivity, compassion

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