Student–teacher ratio

Last updated

Student–teacher ratio or student–faculty ratio is the number of students who attend a school or university divided by the number of teachers in the institution. For example, a student–teacher ratio of 10:1 indicates that there are 10 students for every one teacher. The term can also be reversed to create a teacher–student ratio.


The ratio is often used as a proxy for class size, although various factors can lead to class size varying independently of student–teacher ratio (and vice versa). [1] In most cases, the student–teacher ratio will be significantly lower than the average class size. [2]

Student–teacher ratios vary widely among developed countries. [3] In primary education, the average student–teacher ratio among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is just below 16, but ranges from 40 in Brazil to 28 in Mexico to 11 in Hungary and Luxembourg. [3]

Relationship to class size

Factors that can affect the relationship between student–teacher ratio and class size include the number of teachers with non-teaching duties, the number of classes per teacher, and the number of teachers per class. In addition, if there are small classes for a small number of students, for example for special education or second language learners, the student–teacher ratio for the institution will be misleadingly low relative to the average student's experience. [4]

An example of this variation is that both Palestine and the United States have an average student–faculty ratio of 15, but the average class size is 21 in the United States but 27 in Palestine. [3]


A low student–teacher ratio is often used as a selling point to those choosing schools for tertiary education. On the other hand, high student–teacher ratio is often cited for criticizing proportionately underfunded schools or school systems, or as evidence of the need for legislative change or more funding for education.

In the United States, some states have enacted legislation mandating a maximum student–teacher ratio for specific grade levels, particularly kindergarten. When such figures are stated for schools, they often represent averages (means) and thus are vulnerable to skewing. For example, figures may be biased as follows: if one classroom has a 30:1 ratio and another has a 10:1 ratio, the school could thus claim to have a 20:1 ratio overall. In schools, such ratios are indicative of possible staff changes. If the student–teacher ratio is 50:1, the school will probably consider hiring a few teachers. If the ratio is very low, classes could be combined and teachers fired. In extreme cases, the school may close due to its apparent redundancy.

Classes with too many students are often disruptive to education. Also, too many students in a class results in a diverse field of students, with varying degrees of learning ability. Consequently, the class will spend time for less academic students to assimilate the information, when that time could be better spent progressing through the curriculum. In this way, student–teacher ratios are compelling arguments for advanced or honors classes.


Numerous sources argue that lower student–teacher ratios are better at teaching students complex subjects, such as physics, mathematics and chemistry, than those with a higher ratio of students to teachers. Commonly, the schools with lower student–teacher ratios are more exclusive, have a larger amount of white students and are in non-inner urban areas and/or fee-paying (non-government) institutions. [5]

The manifold arguments and controversies of funding and student–teacher ratios have been the basis for a multitude of studies and debates. One view is illustrated below:

Many analysts have found that extra school resources play a negligible role in improving student achievement while children are in school. Yet many economists have gathered data showing that students who attend well-endowed schools grow up to enjoy better job market success than children whose education takes place in schools where resources are limited. For example, children who attend schools with a lower pupil–teacher ratio and a better educated teaching staff appear to earn higher wages as adults than children who attend poorer schools. [5]

Correlation between class size and reading performance from the results of the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests given in 2005 to 4th and 8th graders US correlation between class size and reading performance.png
Correlation between class size and reading performance from the results of the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests given in 2005 to 4th and 8th graders

Smaller classes are widely believed to benefit all pupils because of individual attention from teachers, and low-attaining pupils are seen to benefit more at the secondary school level, where the content level is more challenging. Pupils in large classes drift off task because of too much instruction from the teacher to the whole class instead of individual attention, and low-attaining students are most affected. [6] Students benefit in later grades from being in small classes during early grades. Longer periods in small classes resulted in more increases in achievement in later grades for all students. In reading and science, low achievers benefit more from being in small classes. The benefits of small class sizes reduce the student achievement gap in reading and science in later grades. [7] In contrast, in East Asian countries like Japan, larger class sizes are valued for the opportunities they give children to rub shoulders and socialize in the group, especially at the lower levels, and particularly preschool. [8]

See also

Works cited

Related Research Articles

Education in the United States is provided in public, private, and home schools.

Student learner, or someone who attends an educational institution

A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery. In the broader sense, a student is anyone who applies themselves to the intensive intellectual engagement with some matter necessary to master it as part of some practical affair in which such mastery is basic or decisive.

Independent school (United Kingdom) Fee-paying school in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, independent schools are fee-levying private schools, governed by an elected board of governors and independent of many of the regulations and conditions that apply to state-funded schools. For example, pupils do not have to follow the National Curriculum. Many of the older, expensive and more exclusive schools catering for the 13–18 age-range in England and Wales are known as public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868, the term "public" being derived from the fact that they were then open to pupils regardless of where they lived or their religion. Prep (preparatory) schools educate younger children up to the age of 13 to "prepare" them for entry to the public schools and other independent schools. Some former grammar schools converted to an independent fee-paying model following the 1965 Circular 10/65 which marked the end of their state funding; others converted into comprehensive schools.

Grading in education is the process of applying standardized measurements of varying levels of achievement in a course. Grades can be assigned as letters, as a range, as a percentage, or as a number out of a possible total.

Education in India is provided by public schools and private schools. Under various articles of the Indian Constitution, free and compulsory education is provided as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14. The approximate ratio of public schools to private schools in India is 7:5.

Education in Finland Finnish Educational system

Education in Finland is an education system, in Finland, that consists of daycare programmes and a one-year "pre-school" ; a nine-year compulsory basic comprehensive school ; post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education; higher education ; and adult education. The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education has been based on constructing a publicly funded comprehensive school system without selecting, tracking, or streaming students during their common basic education. Part of the strategy has been to spread the school network so that pupils have a school near their homes whenever possible or, if this is not feasible, e.g. in rural areas, to provide free transportation to more widely dispersed schools. Inclusive special education within the classroom and instructional efforts to minimize low achievement are also typical of Nordic educational systems.

Education in Germany overview of the educational system in Germany

Education in Germany is primarily the responsibility of individual German states (Länder), with the federal government playing a minor role. Optional Kindergarten education is provided for all children between one and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule for 4 years from the age of 6 to 9.

Education in Japan is compulsory at the elementary and lower secondary levels. Most students attend public schools through the lower secondary level, but private education is popular at the upper secondary and university levels. Education prior to elementary school is provided at kindergartens and day-care centers. The programmes for those children aged 3–5 resemble those at kindergartens. The educational approach at kindergartens varies greatly from unstructured environments that emphasize play to highly structured environments that are focused on having the child pass the entrance exam at a private elementary school. The academic year starts from April and ends in March, having summer vacation in August and winter vacation in the end of December to the beginning of January.

Education in Russia Russian Education

In Russia the state provides most education services, regulating education through the Ministry of Education and Science. Regional authorities regulate education within their jurisdictions within the prevailing framework of federal laws. Russia's expenditure on education has grown from 2.7% of the GDP in 2005 to 3.8% in 2013, but remains below the OECD average of 5.2%. Corruption is common in Russian universities, students often have to pay bribes to pass an exam.

Education in Uganda

The system of education in Uganda has a structure of 7 years of primary education, 6 years of secondary education, and 3 to 5 years of post-secondary education. The government of Uganda recognizes education as a basic human right and continues to strive to provide free primary education to all children in the country. However, issues with funding, teacher training, rural populations, and inadequate facilities continue to hinder the progress of educational development in Uganda. Girls in Uganda are disproportionately discriminated against in terms of education; they face harsher barriers when trying to gain an education and it has left the female population disenfranchised, despite government efforts to close the gap.

The small schools movement, also known as the Small Schools Initiative, in the United States of America holds that many high schools are too large and should be reorganized into smaller, autonomous schools of no more than 400 students, and optimally under 200. Many private schools of under 200 share design features which draw upon the benefits of organizations of less than 200 people. In the public school version of the Small Schools Movement, students may be given a choice of which small school they want to join. Each of the smaller schools would offer students a feeling of connectedness between students who share the same or similar interests with them. In many ways, the small schools in high schools would resemble the team system of many middle schools across the United States. Small schools allow students to have more individual attention from teachers than most average high schools. Many small schools are created by reforming a failed large school into several small ones in the same building, as is the case with the former Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx in New York City.

<i>Gymnasium</i> (Germany) secondary school

Gymnasium, in the German education system, is the most advanced of the three types of German secondary schools, the others being Realschule and Hauptschule. Gymnasium strongly emphasizes academic learning, comparable to the British grammar school system or with prep schools in the United States. A student attending Gymnasium is called a Gymnasiast. In 2009/10 there were 3,094 gymnasia in Germany, with c. 2,475,000 students, resulting in an average student number of 800 students per school.

Education in Israel

Education in Israel refers to the comprehensive education system of Israel. The education system consists of three tiers: primary education, middle school and high school. Compulsory education takes place from kindergarten through 12th grade. The school year begins on September 1, ending for elementary school pupils on June 30, and for middle school and high school pupils on June 20.

Tracking is separating students by academic ability into groups for all subjects or certain classes and curriculum within a school. It may be referred to as streaming or phasing in certain schools.

The system of education in Iceland is divided in four levels: playschool, compulsory, upper secondary and higher, and is similar to that of other Nordic countries. Education is mandatory for children aged 6–16. Most institutions are funded by the state; there are very few private schools in the country. Iceland is a country with gymnasia.

Socioeconomic status Economic and social measure of a persons affluence and/or influence

Socioeconomic status (SES) is an economic and sociological combined total measure of a person's work experience and of an individual's or family's economic and social position in relation to others. When analyzing a family's SES, the household income, earners' education, and occupation are examined, as well as combined income, whereas for an individual's SES only their own attributes are assessed. However, SES is more commonly used to depict an economic difference in society as a whole.

Sex differences in education

Sex differences in education are a type of sex discrimination in the education system affecting both men and women during and after their educational experiences. Men are more likely to be literate on a global average, although women are more prevalent at reading in some countries. Men and women find themselves having gender differences when attaining their educational goals. Although men and women can have the same level of education, it is more difficult for women to have higher management jobs, and future employment and financial worries can intensify. Men tended to receive more education than women in the past, but the gender gap in education has reversed in recent decades in most Western countries and many non-Western countries.

Educational inequality is the unequal distribution of academic resources, including but not limited to; school funding, qualified and experienced teachers, books, and technologies to socially excluded communities. These communities tend to be historically disadvantaged and oppressed. More times than not, individuals belonging to these marginalized groups are also denied access to the schools with abundant resources. Inequality leads to major differences in the educational success or efficiency of these individuals and ultimately suppresses social and economic mobility. See Statistic sections for more information.

Class size

Class size refers to the number of students a teacher faces during a given period of instruction. Dozens of studies on class-size reduction demonstrate its positive impact on student performance, though a smaller number of studies attempt to cast doubt on the connection between class size and student learning.

Class-size reduction

As an educational reform goal, class size reduction (CSR) aims to increase the number of individualized student-teacher interactions intended to improve student learning. A reform long holding theoretical attraction to many constituencies, some have claimed CSR as the most studied educational reform of the last century. Until recently, interpretations of these studies have often been contentious. Some educational groups like the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association are in favor of reducing class sizes. Others argue that class size reduction has little effect on student achievement. Many are concerned about the costs of reducing class sizes.


  1. Henshaw, John M. (2006). Does Measurement Measure Up?: How Numbers Reveal and Conceal the Truth. pp. 45–46. ISBN   9780801883750.
  2. Smith, Robert B (2011). Multilevel Modeling of Social Problems: A Causal Perspective. p. 37. ISBN   9789048198559.
  3. 1 2 3 OECD 2014, p. 447.
  4. Henshaw 2006, p. 46.
  5. 1 2 Card, David; Alan B. Krueger (1996). "School Quality and the Return to Education". In Gary Burtless (ed.). Does money matter?: the effect of school resources on student achievement and adult success . Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. pp.  118–119. ISBN   978-0-8157-1274-9.
  6. Blatchford, Peter; Bassett, Paul; Brown, Penelope (2011). "Examining the effect of class size on classroom engagement and teacher—pupil interaction: Differences in relation to pupil prior attainment and primary vs. secondary schools" (PDF). Learning and Instruction. 21 (6): 715–30. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2011.04.001.
  7. Konstantopoulos, Spyros; Chung, Vicki (2009). "What Are the Long-Term Effects of Small Classes on the Achievement Gap? Evidence from the Lasting Benefits Study" (PDF). American Journal of Education. 116 (1): 125–54. CiteSeerX . doi:10.1086/605103.
  8. Tobin, Joseph J., Yeh Hsueh, Mayumi Karasawa (2009). Preschool in three cultures revisited: China, Japan, and the United States, pp. 95-156. Chicago: University of Chicago Press