Many factors go into success in education

The discussion on class size and quality of teachers has certain limitations (Reducing class sizes can benefit students: Leon Perera; Nov 8).

First, one recognises that class size and quality of teachers are not mutually exclusive. They are both vital to effective teaching and learning.

One needs to also be wary of drawing conclusions from research data like that from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

It is necessary to examine the source of data, the type of analysis used and whether confounding factors and study variables are adequately addressed and examined.

Hence, to draw a cause-effect conclusion between class size or quality of teaching and educational outcomes may be too simplistic or even flawed.

Neither class size nor quality of teaching may be considered the "single dimension of success in education".

There are many other important variables, like cultural, social and environmental factors, that may contribute to what we consider "success in education".

Furthermore, success in education is also not determined by or limited to just academic performance alone.

A successful educational experience should include broad-based learning in areas that include moral education, language, humanities and so on, besides just science and technology.

Nevertheless, class size has its merits, as determined by some reliable large-scale studies.

Smaller class size does matter for children at the early primary levels, the low achievers, those from the lower income groups, and those with special educational needs.

Furthermore, the improved attention and engagement of individual students have a broader benefit.

It moves away from a teacher-directed educational system to a student-centred one, which is critical to meeting the diverse needs of students.

Hence, in considering the outcome of education, we need to look at many more important factors and variables that significantly contribute to the educational outcome of an individual.

Class size and quality of teaching are but two of the factors we should not ignore in order to optimise the learning experience of our students.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'Many factors go into success in education'. Print Edition | Subscribe