Cabinet approval has been granted for increasing the number of pupils in a classroom from 35 to 45. This proposal is the reversal of the move taken by the previous government to decrease the number from 40 to 35. Both moves were justified citing valid reasons by the respective governments. One of the objectives of the present move, increasing the number from 35 to 45, is to bring about quality education ensuring access to the maximum number of pupils.
The practicality of this move is worth discussing. The extent of a primary classroom in a state school is 20×20 feet. These classrooms are separated by a narrow partition wall where noise is permeable to the adjacent classroom. Room temperatures in these classrooms rise up to 35 degrees or more during some months of the year. Only one teacher is assigned to teach 35 or more students without the assistance of teacher assistants.
The role of a primary teacher is complex. She plays mother, guardian, and caretaker in the classroom. Monitoring the pupils in a multilevel classroom, identifying individual differences of the pupils, keeping records about them, and taking measures to ensure inclusiveness in the class too are duties assigned to her, besides teaching. A manageable number of pupils in a classroom makes the teacher’s role effective and productive.
Increasing the number of pupils up to 45 appears to be ill-advised. If the objective of the move is to increase access, there are other ways of achieving that goal. that are more constructive and effective than merely increasing the number.
The number of pupils in semi-urban and rural schools in the country is smaller when compared with that of the urban city-based popular schools. These schools in semi-urban and rural areas can be improved to deliver quality education. Technology can be made use of for this purpose.
The fact that popular city-based schools deliver quality education is a myth. Teachers are produced by a few recognized institutes like National Colleges of Education, Teachers Colleges, and Universities. What the system lacks, is a strong monitoring process. Avenues for teachers to update his/her knowledge and enhance their skills too are rare. The government can design and implement a strong and sustainable mechanism to improve the quality of teachers.
Primary education is the stage where the teacher can identify the skills and talents of the pupils. Close observation of the behavior of the pupils is necessary to guide them. Hence the need to ensure tht a classroom has a manageable number o students.
-KULARATHNE SURIYA ARACHCHI-