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Indicator 11. Class Size and Ratio of Students to Teaching Staff

The U.S. student/teacher ratio at the primary level (14) was lower than the ratio in all but one of the G-8 countries (Italy). At the secondary level, student/teacher ratios ranged from 9 in the Russian Federation to 15 in the United States and Germany.

Figure 11-1 shows average class size in primary education for seven G-8 countries reporting data. In 2008, two countries had an average class size of less than 20 students—the Russian Federation (16 students) and Italy (19 students). Four countries had an average class size between 20 and 25 students—Germany, with 22 students; France and the United States, both with 23 students; and the United Kingdom, with 25 students. Japan had the largest average class size in primary education, with 28 students.

Figure 11-2 shows the ratio of students to teaching staff for the G-8 countries, broken down by four levels of education: preprimary, primary, secondary (lower and upper secondary combined), and higher education. The ratio of students to teaching staff (called student/teacher ratio, below) accounts for teaching staff in addition to regular classroom teachers, such as special education teachers, resource teachers, or other specialized teachers. In the United States, student/teacher ratios were fairly consistent across education levels. In other countries, such as Japan, ratios tended to be higher at the lower education levels, but lower at the higher levels. On the other hand, in Italy, lower ratios were observed at the lower education levels, with a sharp increase at the higher education level. Specifically, in 2008, the U.S. student/teacher ratio at the preprimary level was 13 students per teacher, which was higher than the corresponding ratio in Italy (11), but lower than the ratios in France (19), the United Kingdom (18), Japan (17), and Germany (14).13 At the primary level, the student/teacher ratio in the United States was 14 students per teacher, which was higher than the corresponding ratio in Italy (11), but lower than the ratios in the other G-8 countries (ranging from 17 to 20). At the secondary level, student/teacher ratios ranged from 9 students per teacher in the Russian Federation to 15 students per teacher in the United States and Germany. Finally, at the higher education level, the student/teacher ratio in the United States was 15 students per teacher, which was higher than the corresponding ratios in the Russian Federation (13), Germany (12), and Japan (10), but lower than those in Italy (20), the United Kingdom (17), and France (16).

Definitions and Methodology

Average class size refers to the division of students who are following a common course of study, based on the highest number of common courses (usually compulsory studies), and excludes teaching in subgroups outside the regular classroom setting. In order to ensure comparability among countries, the data include only regular programs at the primary level of education; special- needs programs have been excluded from the calculation.

Data on average class size are not available for the education levels of preprimary, lower and upper secondary combined, and higher education, and thus are not shown in this indicator as is done for the ratio of students to teaching staff.

The ratio of students to teaching staff is calculated by dividing the number of full-time-equivalent students at a given level of education by the number of full-time-equivalent teachers at that level. Teaching staff refers to professional personnel directly involved in teaching students. This includes classroom teachers; special education teachers; and other teachers who work with a whole class of students in a classroom, in small groups in a resource room, or in one-to-one teaching situations inside or outside a regular classroom. Teaching staff also includes department chairpersons whose duties include some teaching, but excludes paraprofessional personnel who support teachers in providing instruction to students, such as teacher aides.

As shown in the figures, education levels are defined according to the 1997 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED97). For more information on the ISCED97 levels, see appendix A.

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13 Data on the ratio of students to teaching staff for the Russian Federation are not available at the preprimary education level.

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