Are Small Classes That Important?

Education Editor, The Maples Academy

Many private schools pride themselves on maintaining small class sizes for the benefit of students. While public schools in Ontario have an average class size of 22 for Grades 9 to 12 and 23.84 for Grades 4 to 8 — this average only increasing with recent changes to the education system — private schools typically average around mid to high teens. But does class size really matter all that much, or are students getting the same education no matter how many peers they share the classroom with?

Research shows that yes, smaller class sizes are advantageous. Having a class of less than 17 students can have a significant impact on your child’s quality of education for a number of factors.

Individualized approach

Smaller class sizes tend to the individual student, rather than treating the whole class as one student, with one style and ability of learning. Recognizing that not all students learn and process in the same way, a smaller class size tailors to individual students and ensures that the individual learns effectively and is given unique support. Moreover, teachers can better understand their students on a personal level, and have the time to dedicate ample attention to every student when they need extra help, encouragement or a mentor.

Higher involvement

Less students in the classroom makes for more engagement from each individual. Not only is there more opportunity for a student’s voice to be heard in the classroom, but also students are often more comfortable speaking in front of a smaller group. This lets them grow into self-assured, independent, confident learners, whereas in a larger class, it’s easier to hide behind louder, more outgoing students, and be too intimidated to participate in front of a lot of peers.

The whole child

Instead of molding a whole classroom, smaller classes work to mold the whole student — meaning, a student develops academically, socially and emotionally. A more individualized approach cares for the overall wellbeing of the whole student by acknowledging their uniqueness, treating them like an individual and tending to their personal needs, strengths, areas of improvement and goals. In conjunction with teachers getting to know and care for students more, a smaller student population grants more opportunities for extracurricular involvement, something worthwhile for students wanting to pursue a prestigious university program. With less students overall, instead of a student being one of 20 applying for an executive position in a club, they are competing against a much smaller pool of students, and, again, are less likely to be discouraged by a smaller chance of being heard.

Enthusiastic lifelong learning

Individual students in a small class find themselves becoming more confident, empowered and excited to learn at school. Being encouraged on an individual basis leads these students to be inspired by the school environment, and to truly believe in their potential to succeed in their chosen life path. While larger classrooms can still encourage students to believe in themselves and be excited to learn, the fact remains that there isn’t enough time to devote to each student’s individual success and their individual needs when it comes to encouragement and motivating good work ethic. Being in a more intimate setting fosters a sense of individual responsibility and value. Every student counts and is known.

When comparing class sizes in your choosing of a school, consider the benefits of a smaller class. It might not seem like the most deciding factor when it comes to choosing a school, but it can make a significant difference to your child’s all-around development into young adulthood.

The Maples Academy (JK-Grade 8) is the leading private IB School (PYP) in the communities of Orangeville, Caledon, Shelburne, Grand Valley and surrounding areas. The Maples Academy is a part of a family of schools: St. Jude’s Academy, The Maples Academy and Oakwood Academy. Our faculty are world leaders in IB education, providing fundamental skills. Phys. Ed, Arts and language specialists nurture the whole student, which ensures our graduates are accepted into their chosen high school. Supported by faculty and parents, our students are inspired to confidently make their mark in the world. Visit us at themaplesschool.com.