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Smaller class sizes are not always better for students

Smaller class sizes are not always better for students

Researchers have found that smaller class sizes are not always associated with better pupil performance and achievement.

"This finding is perhaps due to the fact that class size effects are more likely to be detected in countries with limited school resources where teacher quality is lower on average," said study researcher Spyros Konstantopoulos.

The precise effect of smaller class sizes can vary between countries, academic subjects, years, and different cognitive and non-cognitive skills, with many other factors likely playing a role, according to the study published in the journal Research Papers in Education.

Smaller class sizes in schools are generally seen as highly desirable, especially by parents. With smaller class sizes, teachers can more easily maintain control and give more attention to each pupil. For the findings, the researchers decided to analyse data produced by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Every four years since 1995, TIMSS has monitored the performance and achievement of fourth grade (age 9-10) and eighth grade (age 13-14) pupils from around 50 countries in mathematics and science.

It records pupils' academic ability in these subjects and their self-reported attitude and interest in them, and also contains information on class sizes.

The analysis revealed that smaller class sizes were associated with benefits in Romania and Lithuania, but not in Hungary and Slovenia.

The beneficial effects were most marked in Romania, where smaller classes were associated with greater academic achievement in mathematics, physics, chemistry and earth science, as well as greater enjoyment of learning mathematics.

In Lithuania, however, smaller class sizes were mainly associated with improvements in non-cognitive skills. The researchers think smaller class sizes may have had greater beneficial effects on pupils in Hungary and Slovenia because schools in Romania and Lithuania have fewer resources.

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