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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 6, April 2005

Tens of thousands of students in oversize classes

Almost 43,000 B.C. high school students are crowded into oversize classes for some academic courses, according to BCTF research.

Recent analysis of data collected by school districts reveals that secondary school classes have grown far beyond what would have been acceptable only a few years ago. Since 2002, when the B.C. Liberals stripped class-size protections from the teachers' collective agreement, classes have grown larger in every grade.

"It’s no surprise that learning conditions have deteriorated without contractual protections, but we were surprised at the scope of the class-size problem," said Jinny Sims, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. "With almost 43,000 kids in oversize classes, it’s a huge issue for students and teachers who are under intense pressure to constantly improve achievement."

The Ministry of Education has stopped collecting class-size data. However, legislation requires school boards to maintain a district-wide average of 30 students per class and therefore districts do collect the information. Because teachers believe so strongly that reasonable class sizes are key to quality education, the BCTF filed a freedom of information request for the class-size data reported by districts last September. The BCTF was able to use the information to build a database that represents about 90% of the classes in the province. Elementary data will soon be available as well.

There was too much data to explore the situation in all secondary classes, so several courses were selected for close examination: Science 8, Social Studies 9, Biology 11, English 11, and English 12.

At the provincial level, the classes with more than 26 students in Science and Biology and 30 students in English and Social Studies were identified. On an aggregate basis, at least 26,227 students are in Science classes with more than 26 students and 16,558 students are in English and Social Studies classes of more than 30.

The data has been provided to locals on a provincial overview basis and on a school-by-school basis for secondary schools.

– Larry Kuehn

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