Teacher-student ratio: How does it affect quality of education?

While determining the quality of a child’s education, there are many factors which must come into play.

One aspect that has been overlooked by most parents, guardians, teachers, school administrators and students themselves is the student-teacher ratio.

Needless to mention, it has been reasonably demonstrated that learners are more likely to learn better when personal attention is rendered to them, especially in the case of a slow learner or late bloomer. And this calls for factors that include having an ideal student-teacher ratio.

According to the glossary of education reform, student-teacher ratio “expresses the relationship between the numbers of students enrolled and the number of teachers in that particular school.

For example, a school that has a 10:1 student-teacher ratio would have ten times as many students as full-time teachers.

Teachers with fewer students in their classrooms are able to spend more time with students individually. Net photo.

Unfortunately, not all school institutions have the required resources to afford the necessary number of teachers that matches their students.

For example, according to the statistical year book issued by the Rwandan ministry of education for the academic year of 2018, the total number of learners registered in the Rwandan education system in 2018 was 3,626,362 with 94,699 staff- making it roughly ‘a teacher to 38 students.’

The report also shows that there were over 6491 students with 261 teachers in pre-nursery education, while 226,706 students with 7178 teaching staff for nursery school.

Meanwhile, primary which had the most students recorded 2,503,705 with 44544 staff, yet 578,897 students with 25,143 teachers for secondary schools.

But why does student-teacher ratio matter? And how best can schools, parents offset the damage of an overcrowded classroom by supplementing students’ education.

Student-teacher ratio is important for a number of reasons, says Davis Mfurayase a mathematics teacher at Excella high school.

He points out that ‘the one-on-one attention’, which is very vital, is often not possible when you have a class size of one teacher attending to fifty or more students.

“This has not served us (teachers) well and has resulted in many of our students being hard-pressed to keep up. What should be done now is reducing the class size, and this should make learning both easier and less stressful inside classrooms,” he says.

He adds that, for one thing, it can be used as a tool to measure teacher workload as well as allocation of resources particularly in public schools. 

For Leon Malinga, a student, a good teacher-student ratio can be an indicator of the amount of individual attention any single learner is likely to receive.

“The student-teacher ratio of any given school or school district is frequently used to judge the quality of education. It is important to note, however, that the ideal student-teacher ratio will vary depending on a few different factors,” Malinga says.

You have to consider the age of students as well as their academic needs, among other things. For example, younger students and those who have learning challenges require more time and individual attention from teachers. Therefore, the ideal student-teacher ratio for these children would be higher than for older children, he explains.

“You also have to factor in the skills, experience, and efficacy of the specific teachers, because they are not all equal. A more highly skilled and experienced teacher, for example, might be able to handle a larger class than one who is less experienced,” Malinga shares.

Pursuing academic success 

Over the past few years there has been a push toward decreasing student-teacher ratios across the board in the hopes of improving the academic performance of school-age children.

The idea behind this reform is that teachers who have fewer students in their classrooms will be able to spend more time with individual students. The more individual attention a student receives, the more their learning improves and the higher their chances for academic success.

In order to achieve lower student-teacher ratios, schools have been built all over the country. Schools have also started to change their instructional strategies to achieve a similar lower student-teacher ratio objective-which is academic success.

Maurice Twahirwa a high school teacher says some schools began to group students with similar academic skill levels into small learning communities.

With this type of instructional strategy, one teacher or support specialist can get to know each student’s individual needs more quickly than in a large classroom which means that they are better to provide for the individual needs of students. 

Parents too have a role to play 

Rosette Mutesi, a parent, highlights that burden of academic performance should not totally rely on the teachers and schools.

Instead, parents should play a role in ensuring that their children are followed up even at home.

This she says can be done by creating a schedule for school nights that gives children some time to unwind after school but still complete homework before bedtime, and also making sure that children have healthy environments for doing homework without distractions.

“If your child is struggling with a concept, don’t do the work for them. Go over the assignment together and refer to other classroom materials that might be relevant until he or she understands,” Mutesi says.

She emphasises that children should be encouraged to learn and explore new things outside of the classroom.

Contacted for a comment, Zephy Muhirwa, a parent believes that supplementing a child’s education at home is not as complicated or time-consuming as many parents might imagine.

He says that one doesn’t have to be an expert in all the subjects their child is learning.

Parents need to promote a reading culture among students as a fun down time bustle, and practise taking educational trips.

“Make sure your child has a conducive environment for doing homework without distractions, without TV but plenty of space to spread out and proximity to you so he can easily ask for help.”

Muhirwa adds that parents should refer to classroom materials that might be relevant for their children to understand a certain concept.

He also highlights that it is important for parents to consult teachers and ask them about their child, in case they sense any action of failure.

“Reach out to your child’s teacher if you are worried that they are falling behind, the teacher might be able to give you tips to help your child at home or might even provide some extra materials that can be used to support your child at home.

What is being done?

In a previous interview with The New Times, Rose Baguma, the Director General of Education and Planning at the Ministry of Education, said the Government plans to spend Rwf12 billion on construction of new primary and secondary school classrooms, latrines and washrooms among other school facilities.

Among other factors the funding is expected to decongest schools, this criteria is expected to see the teacher to student ratio decrease significantly.

Under the plan, 1,100 classrooms and over 1,000 toilets will be constructed increasing the ability of students and teachers to access school facilities.

Whereas more is still required to address this issue, in the meantime, this move will not only foster an ideal student-teacher ratio, it will also help enhance quality of education.


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