FACTSHEET: Class size in B.C. schools

Friday, April 17, 2015 7:55 AM

VICTORIA - British Columbia has the most comprehensive system in Canada to track the size and composition of each class and publicly report the totals to support constant system

Since 2000-01, the number of full-time (FTE) public students has decreased by 12.5%, or
approximately 75,000 (from 597,948 to 522,939 in 2014-15). The number of total public
students (headcount) has decreased by 12.6%, or approximately 79,500 (from 632,508 to
552,788 in 2014-15).

Of B.C.'s 66,596 K-12 classes in 2014-15, 41% have fewer than 24 students and 57% have
between 24 and 30 students.

Only 1.6 % of classes have more than 30 students, and the majority of these are in subjects like band, drama and gym where larger numbers are beneficial and intentional. The remaining
instances tend to be in very specialized academic classes (such as calculus 12 or advanced

Since 2005-06, the number of classes with more than 30 students has decreased by 88%, from 9,253 to 1,077.

Compared to other high-performing jurisdictions, British Columbia does not have large classes. This year's (2014-15) average class sizes remain at near historical lows of:

  • 19.5 students for kindergarten
  • 21.5 for grades 1 to 3
  • 25.6 for grades 4 to 7
  • 23.2 for grades 8 to 12

According to Ministry of Education data, at 18:1, B.C.'s full-time equivalent student-teacher ratio has remained relatively stable and virtually unchanged from 17.9:1 in 2000-01.

By provincial legislation, class size for kindergarten in a public school cannot exceed 22
students and grades 1-3 cannot exceed 24 students under any circumstances.

For grades 4 to 12, the limit is 30, but there is flexibility to exceed that limit for designated
subjects where large class sizes are beneficial (such as band, drama and physical education) or where school administrators are confident the learning environment is appropriate to the
needs of the students.

Teachers are offered additional preparation time, professional development funding, paid
leave or other similar compensation in those limited cases where academic classes exceed 30.

Since the majority of provinces do not collect individual class-size data, and because of the
wide variation in the delivery of education, there are no accurate inter-provincial comparisons
of class size in Canada.

In fact, Statistics Canada's student-educator ratio is a commonly cited indicator but the agency specifically warns: "care should be taken with cross jurisdictional comparison" and "the student-educator ratio should not be taken as a measure of classroom size, nor should it be interpreted as a student-teacher ratio."

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