In recent years, there has been a discussion in the education sector about reducing class sizes, especially in primary schools. Research has shown that a smaller number of students in one class will allow the teachers to offer better attention to each child, as compared to a 1:30 ratio at the lower primary levels right now. With an increase in personal guidance for each child, it is not surprising that most parents in Singapore are opting for this favourable teacher-child ratio for their children.
In January 2012, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) introduced two new occupations – para-educators and para-educarers – to join the preschool sector in Singapore as a measure to help existing teachers in managing the class. The idea behind this move is to allow a smaller teacher-student ratio in a class, while maintaining a high quality of education at a preschool level.
Screenshot from ECDA website
According to the table, with the addition of the para-educators and the para-educarers, the numbers for teacher-student ratio have decreased in size even though the class size has increased significantly at a preschool level.
Parents can be assured that in a class of 18 students at Nursery 1, there will be one teacher to nine students at any one point in time. Para-educators and para-educarers will be trained in their field of specialty before joining the childcare centres in Singapore so that they can support the teachers in the classrooms.
This begets the question then: does size matter?
Read also: 8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Preschool in Singapore for Your Child
Pros and cons of a bigger teacher-child ratio in Singapore’s preschools
There is a perception that smaller class sizes are beneficial for children in childcare centres because it is believed that teachers will have more time to cater to each child’s learning needs. While there may be some truth in that, this is also dependent on the teacher’s ability to provide that level of attention to the students.
With a bigger class size, the children will have a wider social network in their own classroom. It allows them to interact with their peers who come from a different background, and it also fosters tolerance towards others. The children may also learn important values like patience when trying to seek the attention of the teacher or when sharing resources and toys with their friends.
However, given that the ages of the children attending childcare centres in Singapore begin from as young as infancy, larger class size may not be ideal when dealing with extremely young children. There is also the risk of a lack of resources for the children, especially the manipulatives that the children use in their daily learning.
In order to combat this, the preschool centres will have to be mindful to cater enough resources for each child as the centres expand.
Read also: Distance Vs Curriculum: Which is More Important When Choosing a Preschool?
Pros and cons of a smaller teacher-child ratio in Singapore’s preschools
The biggest benefit of a smaller class ratio is the level of attention that the teacher can provide each child. Teachers can provide individualised care for the children under their purview without compromising the quality of education. After all, toddlers and preschoolers have different needs compared to primary school children. Constant guidance and watchful eyes are still necessary in their foundation years in order to keep them safe and develop them holistically.
Having said that, a smaller class size, therefore, means that your child will be with the same handful of children for a full year, barring no further movements in the numbers. While this could provide a sense of security for most children who require the stability to thrive, it could also be nerve-wracking for some who find it hard to get along with their classmates.
Whichever childcare centre you choose, your children matter most
Despite all the discussions for classroom ratios, the most important takeaway is your child’s needs to consider. The fanciest preschools with the smallest numbers may not necessarily provide you with what you need for your child.
Consider your child’s personality and how you would like to see your child grow in all aspects before you settle on a childcare centre based on reviews and hearsays. Prepare a list of non-negotiable requirements that you would like to see in your preferred preschool so that in your centre tour, you can check off your list to see if your standards have been met.
Read also: Childcare Centres in Singapore: Is Bigger Really Better?
Written by JoBeth Williams
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