student – teacher ratio

Ha Ha! Sorry. I actually wanted to title the post ‘Fathers-children ratio’ or ‘Mothers-children ratio’ – or to avoid any possible controversy, ‘parents-child ratio.’ But, sanity prevailed on me, obviously.

This is one of the really cute questions people rather habitually ask, when they are seeking admission for their wards into any school. On the face of it, it sounds like a normal question, but… I will tell you why.

The assumption behind this duh question is, a ‘good’ ratio of  say, 10:1 (or less) would automatically ensure that their ward is getting individual attention, their child would be personally addressed with respect to its unique abilities and ‘weaknesses,’ the child will have all round growth and would ace in all competitive exams eventually and get into some nondescript IIT and then land a software pogromer’s job, neighbour’s (and relatives’) envy, owners pride and all that!

On the contrary, a ratio of say, 20:1 (or above) would automatically mean that the school is desperate for resources (funds, teachers and what not!) and/or the children do not get individual attention at all, the classes will be chaotic, the multivarious capabilities of your child would be stunted and so he will merely graduate from some nondescript IIT and then land a software programmer’s  job eventually, oh the horror, the horror!

The reason behind the parents’ desperation to get an idea of this darn ratio is, I believe, many parents (or for that matter most adults)  could not grapple with anything that cannot be assigned a number or a token – this is irrespective of the gazillion learning theories, pedagogical philosophies that abound. Also, since most of them do not have any idea about the rather complicated stuff like whether they want their children to be happy, peaceful, self directed, contended etc etc, this ratio gives them a number with which ‘competing’ schools could be graded and arranged in an order of desirability – so, they find it important to get the ratio right for their children. If only life were such a mere number based magic!

No point in telling them that this ratio is immaterial and that it at best is, a rather stupid way to look at assessing the suitability of a school. Bad teacher-student ratio need not be bad. Good teacher-student ratio need not be good. There is NO evidence in any canonical research or in empirical studies about the effect of these kinds of ratio on the children one way or the other…

No point in even trying to tell them these, of course.

No point in telling them that, even in a primary environment (with children in the age group of 2-5 to 6 years), given the pedagogic material and structured presentations that are given to children in a typical and good Montessori school, that would aid and abet the intellectual development of the children – a class (‘environment’ in Montessoriese) strength of 30 can be very easily managed by a single adult! And the children would also be happy and perhaps would eventually make great citizens, full of kindness, love, self directedness, skills and what not.

However, the student – teacher ratio is bad in any good Montessori school. So sad!

So, my (unsolicited, of course) advice to such ratio hunting parents would be: Please go to some other school, in the highest position in the pecking order of your ratio rated schools list.

To look at it again, perhaps the schools should in turn, ask for the parents-child ratio, better still, fathers-child ratio from such parents. You know why? Of course, these parents will be offended & scandalized by the innuendo that there could be many contending fathers for a given child!

“What the hell!! What are you hinting at? Do we have loose morals? What audacity! What ethics? Are you telling us that, our child is a ….??”

Relax. No offence meant. The schools also want to go by a good parents-children ratio. That’s all.

Seriously now, I would think that, mostly  these parents create their children by pure biological accidents – and they don’t probably want to go thru’ the tedious process of bringing up their children – in a happy and contended way; they merely want some quick solutions and numbers. Hence, I would strongly recommend a heavy mix of polygamy + polyandry for these parents, so that the child will have a chance to be normal – as at least one of these fathers or mothers is likely to be clueful, for a given value of reasonable cluefulness.

Those who live by the ratios, die by the ratios, what else!


Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  • sipayi  On March 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    A very controversial article questioning many beliefs and disbeliefs.

    Premise: Today I had an enlightening half an hour talk with a neighbor, who also is a parent.

    A little preamble: I work and live in a city with predominantly black folks. You can find only 2 good elementary schools of 100+ elementary schools in here. These are overcrowded, ratios in the order of 1:30+

    Back to the theme, I heard this argument from fellow-parent. She detailed me how schools for black folks have been turned into ‘holding places’ and ways for officials to make money by branding the black/Hispanic kids as ‘slow’, ‘with special needs,’ etc.,. I dared to ask her about the strength of locally controlling education, parent participation / efforts. I even exemplified my own schooling from India, a dullard me in a class of 60! Though she was a little convinced, she quickly and beautifully pointed:
    What about parents who themselves are uneducated/under-educated?

    There is your answer. There lies the real need of student-to-teacher ratio. These unfortunate
    children of our human race – born into a highly cannibalistic, greedy and unethical species – require
    special attention, care and nurturing.

  • Ramjee Swaminathan  On March 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I salute thee, dear ‘Sipayi’ – and thanks for your comments.

    I do agree that these sad children do need special attention, care and nurturing.

    But my question is, does the school need to do this? Should the school play the role of an asylum too?

    Again, what makes one assume that, if the parents are ‘uneducated’ or ‘undereducated,’ their children would need any special attention? I dont think this is a valid argument. I have personally seen cases wherein the children have flourished. The key factor here is not ‘educational background’ of the parents, but the ‘centredness’ of them, I think.

    IMO, the school need not be an asylum. But, it should be an emotionally safe & respectful environment for the children to flower and spread wings. The adults in the environment have the basic responsibility to deliver on this.

    Though the adults can be nurturing and respectful (towards the children), they can’t be expected (nor can they, per se, given the gazillion tasks that they have to routinely deliver on) create a meaningful impact and offset the negative influences & disfunctionalities from home…

    I don’t think this beast called ‘student-teacher ratio’ is a silver bullet that will solve this issue.

    Having said all these, I would say that, there should be appropriate social mechanisms to handle this. I would say that something like an extended family or a joint family or a closely knit community would be able to help the child much better than any adult from school.

    Of course I agree that this is all one person’s view. So, YMMV and all that.

    Thanks again, let us keep discussing…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: