The Benefits of Larger Classes in EFL Teaching
Bigger is better, right? It's a concept most of us have grown up with. A bigger house is better than a smaller one, a bigger car is better than a smaller one, and a bigger motorbike is oh so much better than a smaller one. The list is almost endless. So, we all agree then, bigger is better! Or is it?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author, an alumni of ITTT (International TEFL and TESOL Training). They do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ITTT. The content provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as official endorsement or representation by ITTT.
Challenging the Perception: Bigger is Better?
Now let's apply that line of thought to classroom sizes and pupil-to-student ratios in our schools in the UK. As parents, most of us would recoil in horror if anyone dared to suggest that bigger classes with more students are better than smaller classes with fewer students. It's as if, like a magician saying 'Abracadabra,' all predictable lines of logic change and we instinctively believe that smaller is so much better than bigger.
A Different Perspective on Class Sizes
However, having worked as a teacher in an Asian country with a wide range of age groups for over a decade, I would like to share a somewhat different perspective on this topic. From my experience, I firmly believe that larger classes with significantly more students can offer some positive benefits to our students' overall education.
Comparing Class Sizes: UK vs. Vietnam
If we focus on the number of students within a classroom in the UK and compare it to Vietnam, the difference becomes apparent. According to an article in The Guardian newspaper from June 2020, class sizes in the UK have reached an average of 22 students per class. However, more recent government figures for 2022/23 indicate an average of 27.7 students per infant class. While there is a legally imposed limitation to class sizes in the UK, with a statutory limit of 30 students per class for infants, the increase is notable.In Vietnam, the number of students in classrooms for the same age group is almost double that of the UK. For example, in Ho Chi Minh City, where I live and work, classrooms typically have around 48 to 50 children per class.
The Role of Apprentice Teachers in Larger Classes
In Vietnam, a slightly different system is in place where a main Western native teacher is assisted by a co-worker, often bilingual and acting as an apprentice teacher. This co-worker forms an essential student-teacher link and shares responsibility for the smooth running of the lesson. Adopting a similar system in the UK, with a main teacher and apprentice or trainee teacher, could prove beneficial for all parties involved: the teachers, apprentices, and most importantly, the students.
In conclusion, I believe that if the UK adopted a system with a main teacher and apprentice or trainee teacher, it could be beneficial for all parties involved. Considering a modified approach and embracing the advantages of larger classes, particularly in certain subjects, may indeed prove that bigger can be better in the UK educational context.
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