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Education in States and Nations: 1991

(ESN) Indicator 16: Class size

The number of students a teacher faces during a period of instruction - measured as class size - is an indicator of the typical teacher's pupil load during a class period. Smaller class sizes are sometimes valued because they may allow students to receive more personalized attention from their teachers and may reduce the teachers' burden of managing large numbers of pupils and their work. However, maintaining smaller class sizes can be more expensive. Furthermore, large classes do not necessarily hinder instruction. Depending on teaching style, student behavior, and other factors such as the opportunity for students to meet with teachers outside of class, large classes may function just as efficiently as small ones. Because this indicator measures average class size, it does not reveal whether schools choose to have different-sized classes for different subjects or different levels of education.

  • In 1991, average lower secondary class sizes in the G-7 countries included here all fell within the range of 20 to 25 students per class. The United States had an average class size of 23 students per class.

  • Other countries reported a wide range of average class sizes, from 18 in Switzerland to 49 in Korea. While no state had an average class size larger than 30, 5 of the other 18 countries did.

Note on interpretation:

State data are based on the size of classes reported by 8th-grade public school teachers. Data for countries, including the U.S. average, were obtained as follows: Administrators from schools with 13-year-old students who participated in the International Assessment of Educational Progress estimated the modal size for a class at the grade level to which most 13-year- olds would be assigned.

Table 15d Processes and Institutions Indicators Figure 16
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