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Education in States and Nations: 1991

(ESN) Indicator 15: Number of schools and school size

A nation or state may have a large number of schools and a small average school size because of a dispersed population, or because of some other, deliberate policy. Schooling could be compartmentalized by level (e.g., preprimary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary) or by curricular theme (e.g., academic, vocational). These levels and themes may be separated by school or combined. The more they are kept separate, the greater the number of individual schools and the smaller the average school size. Some educators believe there is a negative association between large school size and student achievement and, therefore, encourage a reduction in the number of students per school. On the other hand, though smaller schools may have a stronger sense of community, larger schools often can provide broader curricular offerings.

  • Of the G-7 countries for which data are available for various years between 1989 and 1993, the United States and Japan had the largest average number of students per school at the preprimary through secondary level (398 and 395, respectively). The average for France (166), the G-7 country with the smallest number of students per school, was less than half that of the United States.

  • The average number of students per preprimary through secondary school in Taiwan (873), the country with the largest number of students per school, was over five times greater than that of Finland (156), the country with the smallest average school size at the same level.

  • For the most part, the schools in the U.S. states at the preprimary through secondary level were larger than those in other countries. Schools in 28 states, but only 2 of 13 countries, averaged above 400 students.

  • Of the five G-7 countries included in various years between 1987 and 1993, the average number of students per higher education institution in the United States (3,988) was second only to Germany (5,660) and greater than those of Japan (2,327), France (2,636), and Canada (3,769). Germany, Korea, and Taiwan were the only countries, among the eleven for whom data were available, with averages above 5,000. Korea's average (5,779) was almost eight times that of Belgium (728), the country with the smallest number of students per institution.

  • The U.S. states generally had higher average numbers of students per higher education institution than did the other countries. Five states, but none of the countries, had averages above 6,000 students per institution; whereas half of the other countries, but only 14 of the states, had averages below 3,000 students per institution.

Note on interpretation:

There are marked differences among countries with respect to whether certain programs are classified as belonging to the university, non-university, or upper secondary sector. For example, in some countries, programs leading to qualifications in teaching and nursing are considered to be university programs; in others, they are non-university programs. Furthermore, some vocational and technical programs are classified as non-university higher education in parts of Canada and the United States, whereas they are defined as upper secondary education in most other countries.

Table 14b Processes and Institutions Indicators Figure 15a
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