Class sizes in public vs private schools in South Africa

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Class size and student ratios are still a heavily discussed topic in education.

According to the OECD, smaller size classes are often seen as beneficial because they allow teachers to focus more on the needs of individual students, and reduce the amount of class time needed to deal with disruptions.

The ratio is also often used as a selling point for private schools, as they boast that smaller class sizes allow for more one on one time, and innovative teaching methods.

As part of a recent parliamentary Q&A session, the Department of Basic Education stated that, as of March 2018, the national average LER (Learner-Educator Ratio)for government primary schools was one teacher to every 35.2 students.

However this dropped to a national average of 27.7 students to a teacher at the secondary school level.

The Western Cape stood out as having the highest LER for both primary (38.4) and secondary schools (33.2), while the Northern Cape had the combined lowest average LER of 32.3 at primary schools, and 25.3 at secondary schools.

The numbers in the table below have been rounded.

Province Primary schools (average LER) Secondary schools (average LER)
Eastern Cape 38 31
Free State 37 26
Gauteng 38 27
KZN 33 27
Limpopo 35 26
Mpumalanga 35 27
North West 32 26
Nothern Cape 32 25
Western Cape 38 33
National average 35 28

Private schools

The LER of private schools in South Africa is more difficult to calculate, as it is heavily dependent on the type of school, differing teaching methods, and fewer reporting requirements when it comes to class sizes.

An August 2017 study which looked at private schools run by SPARK, Curro and AdvTech found that typically these schools did have fewer students in a classroom – but not drastically so.

Curro Academies for example, can have up to the same number of children in a classroom as public government schools (35). However, its latest integrated annual report showed that it has an average student:teacher ratio of 17 to 1 across all of its 145 schools.

By comparison, Spark schools typically have around 32 learners in a classroom; however, the report noted that these learners were almost never taught as one group.

At AdvTech Academies and AdvTech Crawford, the researchers found that the the gap is more noticeable with 25 children or fewer in a class.


 

This article was first published on businesstech.co.za