The number of students in each Singapore classroom is, on the whole, higher than the global average. HoneyKids takes a look at five schools to see how they fare.
There is so much to consider when choosing a school for your little one: it’s where they will spend most of their young days, learn a new language or two, be influenced by its surroundings and develop social skills with their new friendship group. One of the big factors that play a part in your child’s overall development, personality and character is the number of fellow students in the school, and even in the classroom. Do you want that personalised, focused attention on them from the teachers or will they flourish in a bigger school environment and a bigger social group? We spoke to seven international schools to get their philosophies on how class size impacts its students.
Melbourne International School
Current school capacity: 60
Average number of students in each classroom: 12
Ratio of students to teacher: Ranges from 4:1 to 8:1, depending on programme
Melbourne International School (MELIS) believes that small class sizes yield higher success. The school intentionally keeps their class sizes small to create an environment where students feel safe and comfortable to learn. This also means that teachers are not prone to feeling stressed out when teaching is in session.
In larger classes, students may not get all their needs met, be it academic or social. There’s a possibility that students may find it hard to concentrate in large classes. When this happens, students may feel ‘lost’, experience difficulties in learning which could lead to behavioural problems. On the other hand, teachers with large class sizes may have to focus more on managing student behaviour instead of teaching. It also means there are not many opportunities for students and teachers to build strong relationships.
“We find that our students respond beautifully to the teaching in small classes. They also have a close relationship with our teachers. In turn, our teachers’ response towards individual learning needs are better, as they’re not overwhelmed with large groups of students. When students have their teachers’ attention, it changes the way they learn and behave. Small class sizes are effective, and beneficial to the whole school community. When we feel supported, we thrive to be the best we can be. MELIS is proud to be advocates for small schools and personalised learning,” a school representative said.
The Winstedt School
Current school capacity: 217
Average number of students in each classroom: 15
Ratio of students to teacher: Ranges from 8:2 to 15:2, depending on programme
The small class sizes at The Winstedt School allows its educators to deliver highly personalised teaching and create learning experiences that suit every child’s educational needs. Its teaching methodology – The Winstedt Way – is all about personalised instruction, multi-sensory learning, and regular whole-class sessions with its school counsellor.
“We have many students at Winstedt who, regardless of learning challenges, thrive with our small classes, personalised teaching, and inclusive community,” a school representative shared. Students who are not quite ready to access the classroom benefit from even smaller class sizes (two students to eight teachers) through the school readiness SEED Programme.
With a high teacher-to-student ratio, Winstedt’s educators are able to deliver the British curriculum in innovative ways to meet every student’s needs. It also enables the school to provide a comprehensive model of support with integrated therapy and pastoral care. Therapy is provided through weekly ‘push-ins’ during unstructured times; and pastoral care is provided in and out of class. Through small classes, students are able to learn and practise social emotional learning skills throughout the school day too.
XCL World Academy
Current school capacity: 800+
Average number of students in each classroom: Primary – 24, Secondary – 24
Ratio of students to teacher: Primary – 12:1, Secondary: 24:1
XCL World Academy (XWA) is a family-oriented school, one where everyone knows and values each other. The learning environment is geared to make kiddos feel confident and secure to express themselves without fear of judgement, which is why there is both a teacher and a teaching partner – two adults – in the classroom up until Grade 5. Between them, they are able to get to know each child, tailor activities accordingly and encourage all little ones to participate. Secondary school classrooms have a cap of 24 students per class, also much lower than the Singapore average of 33–34.
The school believes the small class sizes allow students to feel confident to put their hand up to ensure better understanding of what they’re learning and the curriculum in general. Children build strong relationships with the experienced and passionate teaching faculty, which helps build their confidence to go out into the real world.
What about learning support? XWA provides limited learning support to students with special needs who are able to learn in a mainstream classroom environment – the teachers instead collaborate with the learning support team to put them on the path to success.
Yu Kaffeman has two children in XWA: Maya (Grade 5) and Akira (Grade 2). She says: “Our children’s first language is Japanese and, prior to moving to Singapore, they had just a slight understanding of English. Maya had some difficulties adapting to the challenges of learning the vocabulary while trying to master academic English. Her class teachers were very supportive and encouraging at all times. The low student-teacher ratio allows teachers to get to know every child in their class and tailor the program to each child. The class teachers and English as an Additional Language (EAL) team have done a great job in improving Maya’s and Akira’s writing and speaking skills and they have always been there for us with great advice.”
Chatsworth International School
Current school capacity: 850
Ratio of students to teacher: K1 & K2 – 22:1, Year 1 to 13 – 24:1
Nathiya and Glenn Porrit, parents of two students at Chatsworth International School, believe Chatsworth’s small class size encourages development in individual students: “The amount of support we’ve seen teachers giving to each individual student is also amazing.” With the school retaining the class sizes as among the lowest in Singapore for the last two decades (22 to 24 from kindergarten up to secondary), the school keeps the numbers low so that students are given the attention and support to thrive and grow. It gives the little learners the confidence to think critically and globally.
For students who need a little extra learning support, the school occasionally puts them together in a smaller group with its Learning Support Coordinator for more focused attention. Otherwise, the coordinator creates an Individual Learning Programme for teachers and parents to action on.
The Porrits add: “As a parent, you need to look for a school that fits your family and your children – there is no absolute answer as to which school is the best. In all, Chatsworth has really been a positive experience for us.”
Dover Court International School
Current school capacity: 1,800
Approximate number of students in each classroom: 24
Ratio of students to teacher: Primary and Secondary – 22:1; Special Needs – 9:1; EAL – 14:1
Dover Court International School doesn’t prescribe to specific class sizes or ratios of teachers to students in its classrooms. Instead, its school model includes smaller classes for students who need additional academic support and flexible learning. These range from classes of eight students with one teacher and two assistants to in-class learning support, such as EAL provision. The well-established school has maintained its class sizes through the years.
Karyn Pereira, who has two children in Dover Court, loves the school’s welcoming atmosphere. She witnessed how her son transitioned into the main education stream from working with the teachers in its support programme Pathway 3. She says: “He benefits from the smaller class sizes at Dover Court and has access to all the specialist staff as and when he needs.” Despite the school doubling in size recently with the injection of investment from Nord Anglia Education, Pereira maintains that the school has managed to maintain its small, friendly atmosphere that suits the needs of her family.
International Community School (Singapore)
Current school capacity: 364
Average number of students in each classroom: Preschool – 18; Primary – 20
Ratio of students to teacher: Junior Kindergarten to Year 5 – 9:1; Year 6 to 8 – 5:1; Year 9 onwards – 6:1
International Community School’s (Singapore) (ICS) class sizes are significantly below the global average. The school believes that this allows its teachers to really get to know each and every student – everything from their academic achievements (or struggles), to their emotional well-being and social circles. ICS (Singapore) ensures each child is supported by his or her teachers, both inside and outside of the classroom. The small class sizes allows its students to be mentored by the school’s teachers in everything from athletic coaches and extracurricular activities sponsors.
Assistant professor Dr Mia Lee, who has children in the school, feels her family has benefited from the ICS (Singapore) community: “Small class size does make a difference – it allows teachers more time with each individual student. The school’s real distinction is its overall positive and inclusive spirit.”
Despite its already small class sizes, ICS (Singapore) has additional learning support and English Language Learners programme for its students. They have the opportunity to work with a specialist teacher every day in small-group settings.
St. Joseph’s Institution International
Current school capacity: 2,067
Average number of students in each classroom: Primary – 22; Secondary – 25
Ratio of students to teacher: 11.5:1
Since St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) International opened in 2007, the number of students in the classroom has been an important driving factor within the school. It believes that student learning is optimal in classes that have a smaller teacher to student ratio, enabling teachers to encourage more participation from students and provide personalised learning experiences. Students progress through the school with classrooms that have both a teacher and a teaching partner.
The school’s average class size across its elementary programme is in line with the global average – 21 students per class, and at high school level, it’s a little below the global average of 24 students per class, all to cater to a more personalised experience. SJI International has accommodated an increase in school enrolment with facilities to house everyone.
Any learning support is generally offered within the mainstream classroom, with the Learning Department Team striving to promote inclusion. In some instances, individual support may be offered with the involvement of parents, especially when advice is sought from external professionals or agencies.