Muscat: Class sizes at Indian schools in Oman are approaching 50 students per class, but administrators say efforts are underway to reduce this number.
A few classes in one school in the country already hold as many as 55 pupils and parents and educators in the Sultanate are worried that these children will not get the attention they need to do well at school.
At Indian School Muscat, the biggest of the Indian schools in Oman, class sizes average 47 with a similar number at Indian Schools Wadi Kabir and Salalah. However, some classes in Indian School Darsait have up to 55 students.
One of the reasons given for the rise in class sizes is the number of students who used to attend school in the afternoon who have now been accommodated into morning shifts.
“Currently, we only have afternoon shifts for students from KGII to Class V in Indian School Muscat, and this is only to accommodate the existing students,” a board official told Times of Oman. “With regards to new admissions, we have given 70 per cent of parents their first choice of school.”
“The new Bausher school has taken in a lot of students from the local areas, and the classrooms have been designed in such a way that they can they can accommodate only around 36 students and no more,” added a board official.
“We have also bought land in Jibroo, where we will build a large school over the coming years, and the additional classrooms there will bring the numbers down to about 35 by then,” he added.
In addition, a former member of the School Management Committee at Indian School Salalah said more classrooms had been supplied to accommodate new admissions in the Dhofar Governorate. “Indian School Salalah is packed, there is no doubt about that, he explained.
“It is the only Indian school here and has about 4,500 students, with the average class size about 47. During my time, we built some 10 or so new classrooms and labs as well, so that helped, but I still feel that 45 students is the average per class. However, new admissions have significantly dropped because people are leaving Salalah. In past years we might have had about 500 students coming in, but now, we only have about 250, so these numbers might even themselves out in a few years.”
“If schools in Oman have large student numbers, they have to go for new classrooms,” he added.
“There is no other way. You must have a maximum ratio of 30 students to a teacher, otherwise, when a lesson is introduced, teachers will not have time to see whether everyone has understood it and might miss the students who are not interested in learning.
The Times of Oman also spoke to parents about the overcrowding in classrooms and how it affected their children.
“I was surprised to see for myself the number of students in my son’s class,” said one father, whose child attends an Indian school in the capital.
“With so many students, how will the teacher be able to keep an eye on all of them? There are 47 students in my son’s class, and this is far too many. The teachers will not be able to provide a personal approach. Ideally, there should be no more than 25 students in a class, and this is nearly double that number. The teachers will find it exceedingly difficult both to control the students and to teach them.”
A mother added, “Smaller classes means better teacher-to-child ratios, because Indian schools normally have only one teacher in a classroom, apart from kindergarten, where they have two. Infrastructure also improves with smaller classes; washrooms are cleaner, security is better, children get more opportunity for extracurricular activities. If they go to music class, for example, they will spend more time with an instrument. If they go for gymnastics or art, they will be more focus on them by the teachers, so they get to learn more. They will receive better quality interaction and, for younger children, more emotional attention as well. When you have larger class sizes for younger children, then the kids are left to fend for themselves. The teacher just wants them to open the book, finish the work, and just get through the 40 minutes of class time. She will try, yes, but if you have 45 students and a 40-minute period, then you are essentially giving each child less than a minute of attention. “
This parent also believed that smaller class sizes meant a better standard of education as fewer children equals more
resources for everyone.
“Teachers then have time to look beyond academics. The teacher can teach in a different way, and when more work is done in the class, it means less work is brought home. The workload for the teacher also becomes less” she added.
Anuya Phule, a psychotherapist at Hatat Polyclinic, added that attention to students was extremely important for their academic and all-round development, particularly at an early age.
“For the teacher to give full attention to everyone is not possible even if there are only 30 kids, but to maintain discipline, ensure structured lessons and make eye contact with all the students, smaller numbers are better,” she explained.
“A single teacher is not able to manage the chaos caused by the presence of so many students; secondly, assessing each and every student on a personal level does not happen, and puts a lot of pressure on the teacher; finally, attention cannot be paid to the process of teaching itself. This must be rich, active and stimulating.”
Phule added, “At a very early age, in primary school, kids need a kind of attention from teachers, and in large class sizes they don’t get that. This affects their confidence and their academic capabilities suffer because equal chances are not given to all. All students have different attention spans and energy levels, but if teachers are unable to control a large group of children, many of them will be unable to grasp what is taught in the class.”
“Some students are naturally attentive, but others are not, so students need to be in an atmosphere will helps them think and concentrate on things, and if there are too many students, that will not happen.”