Educating in the Aftermath of the Baby Boom: Does Size Really Matter?

Hello Bloggers!

I think I have already made it clear that there are many avenues to which the Ontario Education System can improve the learning and development of our children and youth. At the same time, however, I think that it is also important to address the fact that some issues are often not the cause of those making policy decisions. Educators and policy supporters cannot force people to have more kids; the decline in birth rates – across the country – is a staple fact. 

According to statistics gathered from the World Bank, the 2014 Canadian fertility rate was 1.61 per female, while the 1960 rate was 3.81. Canada’s rate also remains lower than both the United States and Mexico. Because there are less children being born, there is evidently less children to teach in classrooms.

“So what is the issue Jillien?”

WELL, the baby boomer stage (i.e. when women were each having an average of four children) evoked a demand in schools for children to be educated. These buildings are the same spaces where children are learning today. Because there are less children to fill the chairs and empty hallways of these buildings, we run into a cost-analysis issue.

A recent article from Southern Ontario comments on how schools in the Bluewater District School Board are far from reaching their maximum capacity: “Beavercrest, with 192 pupils, is less than 40% full.” 

“So what can we do about it Jillien?” 

WELL, as much as I can attest to the fact that close and convenient options for schooling would be idealistic, I believe that a consideration of funding should come first. The Rainbow District School Board, in my home town of Sudbury, Ontario, announced early in the year that eight schools will be shutting down. The board noted that these closings are a result of the small school populations and will contribute to annual savings of 2.2 million dollars! The board is in the midst of expanding other schools to accommodate for the students requiring to move.

Because these changes are in my home town, I am well aware of the effect that they are having on the community. Many people – including students – are unhappy about this news (but that should not be a surprise). Parents and guardians might now be required to help their student accommodate in a new school setting; one that is most likely further from their home. The students at Lively High School actually fought against these changes by going on STRIKE. Yes I’m serious. Here are pictures to prove it!

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Students at Lively High School striking the school closure

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The students were successful!

Yep. The school is no longer closing! The school board acknowledged the geographic base that Lively High School covers and came to a solution with the supporting community; Lively will serve as the central high school in that region.

However, and as I’ve already mentioned, I am all for the school board’s changes in my community. The education system needs to modify themselves according to the time period. In this day and age, we simply do not have enough students to fill the same spaces that were used to educate students 40 years ago. In the span of roughly seven years – from the time my sister was in high school until the time that I finished – the population of my high school even dropped from roughly 1100 students to 700! The need for condensation of some sort is visible with my own eyes! 

The solution to educating students amid this issue is pretty straightforward: by an amalgamation of schools (i.e. closing a handful of schools and having one large school to accommodate all students), class sizes will increase. Certainly, class sizes are a whole other issue at hand, but considering birth rate declines go hand in hand with this issue, I’d also like to partake in the current debate.

Here is an interesting video highlighting some of the challenges that teachers face with large class sizes. Although this video is a little older and based on American education, I do believe that the issues described are relevant in any classroom experiencing such an expansion with pupil population.

 

I agree that larger classes MIGHT be detrimental to student learning: not only are students left with less one on one time with the teacher, but more students in a classroom has the potential to create an undesirable environment for learning; as the video mentions, students can become loud and distracted by others.

BUT, then I am left to think: can larger classes promote greater opportunities for students to learn from one another? Larger classes can lead to larger amounts of group activities and interactive class lessons and discussions. Also, having educational assistants (EAs) in the classroom to aid the teacher in learning and maintaining a fun environment might reduce the stress on teachers as they face larger piles of material to prepare and grade.

I could rant pages and pages on this topic, but I’ll save you the time and leave with one final thought! I honestly believe that larger classes are simply necessary amid the current statistics of our population. I would much rather the ministry have funding to implement new programs and course opportunities than waste it on keeping schools – schools that are half-full – standing. BUT, do not forget that teachers need help; education should remain meaningful for all pupils and meaningful learning requires more hands involved in classrooms to ensure that every student continues to be accounted for. 

Happy learning! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Educating in the Aftermath of the Baby Boom: Does Size Really Matter?

  1. Hey!
    The decline in birth rate is definitely causing an issue with school sizes. There are so many factors to consider when school boards are deciding on the best plan to fix this issue. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, it often just crates more problems. The problem is that both sides of the arguments are easily debatable. Large vs. small class sizes, costs effectiveness, geographical changes etc. I think you made a good point about about having EAs in the classrooms, or even more than one teacher. Closing schools and increasing class sizes would reduce the number of teaching jobs available. With so many possible routes and further issues arising with each choice, it is a difficult decision to make. However, i think you make a great argument. Cost effectiveness should be taken into consideration because it can go back into the students’ learning which is the main priority!

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  2. Hi Jillien,

    This post is really interesting to me. I have always attended a french school (fully french) which have always been very small class sizes and constantly have stable or diminishing student numbers.
    I think I may disagree with you however. Although you do raise some good thoughts on the matter, I feel like the funding doesn’t always come and the students are simply stuck with more peers ( atleast in my experience thus far).
    I feel like the diminishing of students whether it is because of the baby-boom or because of simply less student registration, it saddens me anytime there is a school closure.
    I also find it to be an issue because I think it is better to have smaller class sizes, than to have less of a staff (less teachers) with more students.
    For example, I have worked in classes with 16 students, whereas I also know teachers that have 29 students in their class. I am not saying that they get less of an education however the learning environment does differ.

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  3. hey!
    I found your article very interesting!
    However I must add I also as the comment above went to a French school for a majority of my childhood, but something I noticed now is that there are a lot more program based schools specializing in French, IB, IBT and so on, this could be a reason because a lot of children are not attending their home schools.
    Also, there are a lot more schools now, and a lot more schools being built.
    This population (especially that of children) is bound to decrease as millennials are waiting on having children or just not having them. Families are smaller, children are expensive and contraception is all the rage! HAAHAHA Therefore I feel that class sizes are bound to change and decrease as many adults just aren’t having children!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi,
    Interesting topic about the students is getting less compare to couple years before. I grew up I China, a small town in South part, and my classroom was having up to 50+ students in one class, which is a crazy number for one class. And the process of the class is like the video you have, teachers are mostly focusing on the homework to be done or not, and only the higher grade students have more chance to ask the teacher about their question. In my opinion, it is the worst teaching style while the number of people getting large in one classroom. As refer to your thinking, larger classes do promote greater opportunities for students to learn from one another; but, when they are facing to the question which they are not cable to understand, they still need a chance to ask the teacher one by one, which is less opportunity in a larger class.
    For the situation that Canada is facing to, I think to increase the population is the only choice, not only for the better education but also for more jobs opportunities.

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