The Importance of Small Class Sizes

“Why are class sizes small at Yokohama Christian School?” this question, or a variation of this question, is often asked by prospective parents. There are two parts to the answer that I would like to discuss.

First, Yokohama Christian School is an international school in Japan: it is not a Japanese school. Therefore, the guidelines that YCS chooses to use for teacher-student ratios in the classroom are not Japanese.[i] At this time, YCS has chosen to follow guidelines for early education programs in the United States.[ii]

Secondly, research recommends that student-teacher ratios in early education programs in the United States be small. In fact, the smaller the ratios the better learning results for students. [iii]

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), located at Rutgers University in the United States, has researched student outcomes based on smaller class sizes and has come to the following conclusions:

– Class size reduction is a policy that can increase educational effectiveness


– Small class size and better staff-child ratios offer health and safety benefits[iv]

I would like to take those two statements and interpret them in a meaningful way. “Class size reduction is a policy that can increase educational effectiveness” means that with smaller student numbers teachers are able to spend their time teaching content, instead of crowd-control. This means that the learning goals that have been determined for each age group or class are the focus of the school day.[v] One-on-one time with students allows teachers to observe skills that have been mastered and those that need work.

As an international school, many students at YCS come from families where their home language is not English. The quality of English input, i.e. English language exposure, can make the difference in an earlier rate of English language production.

The second statement is “small class size and better staff-child ratios offer health and safety benefits.” With larger teacher-student ratios, teachers spend a greater portion of time in controlling behavior. Young children are still learning social rules as well as classroom rules and when classroom ratios between teachers and students are higher, a larger portion of class time will be spent dealing with behavioral and other potential problems. The bottom line being that actual instruction and learning time decreases as student-teacher ratios grow.

Yokohama Christian School is a small school by design. The goal is to provide the highest quality academic program for all of our students and that begins with smaller class sizes.


[i] Note: The average classroom size in Japanese preschools is 23.9 students in a class with the student ratios being 1:16.2. The goals of Japanese preschool education are different than programs in the United States; “Large classes promote interaction, socialization, and group consciousness among children.  The assistant teachers help to meet a child’s individual needs.“

Interaction and socialization is similar to US preschools, however the idea of group consciousness seems to be unique to the Japanese context. Source: Ishikida, Miki Y. (2005) Japanese Education in the 21st Century. Tokyo: iUniverse, Inc.

[ii] As a member of Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), Yokohama Christian School follows the recommended guidelines from ACSI. They are the following: 1:4 for 21-36 months, 1:6 for 2.5 to 3 year olds, and 1:8 for 4 year olds.

[iii] Barnett, W. Steven, Schulman, Karen & Shore, Rima. (2004). Class size: what’s the best fit? Preschool Policy Matters, 9.

[iv] (Ibid.)

[v] Please see the entrance area outside the office for details.