Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits-Nord Anglia Education
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Nord Anglia
10 August, 2023

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits-57e45d77df4524922bec6485aa64df9

A perennial dilemma posed to parents as they search for a school is whether a smaller or larger school campus would be the best option for their child.  The question in itself is not a simple one, with multiple factors contributing to the outcome, and most families make their decision based on the information given to them during school visits. 

At Nord Anglia International School (NAIS) Shanghai, Pudong, while our campus is very well equipped with a wide range technically advanced classroom features and a number of excellent sporting and activity facilities, our school at its heart is one built around community, personalisation and with a warm and welcoming environment.  We are proud to be able to offer our students ahome from home and a setting in which they are known by everyone and where they will always feel comfortable and confident.

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits

Our class sizes are smaller than traditional international schools with small staff-to-student ratios, especially for our younger students who often require the most attention.  For our youngest children, we have at least one staff member for every four students, while in Primary year groups we generally have one staff member for every nine pupils in class.  At the other end of the spectrum, while our most senior students are in larger tutor groups, they can often find themselves in much smaller class sizes for their chosen subjects, allowing them dedicated time with teachers to explore the technical and detailed nature of some subject content.  Our Head of Secondary, Mr Greg Siccardi, explains further:

When a student is learning the intricacies of chemical formulae, mathematical theorem, or the nuances of grammar in a new language, being able to discuss this on an almost one-on-one basis with their class teacher can be invaluable.  Having a teacher available to quickly respond with detailed essay feedback, or to provide targeted additional support or challenge in a subject can be the critical difference between attaining a 6 and a 7 at IB Diploma level, which can in turn positively affect university choices in future, and at NAIS Pudong, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to provide this level or personalised tutoring to all of our students.

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits

Small schools with smaller class sizes offer several additional advantages that contribute to a better educational experience for students, especially in international settings where students are likely to come from a wide range of countries and speak a variety of languages.  These advantages can include:

Individualised Learning

One of the key advantages of small schools and smaller class sizes is the opportunity for personalised attention and individualised learning. With fewer students to attend to, teachers and support staff can devote more time and attention to each student's needs, strengths, and challenges. This individualised approach enables teachers to tailor instruction, address specific learning styles, and provide targeted support, resulting in enhanced academic growth and overall student well-being.  The ability to offer this differentiated learning isnt always possible in much larger schools, where students can sometimes feel lost in a crowded classroom and campus, and where their specific needs may be over-looked or ignored.

Stronger Teacher-Student Relationships

In smaller class sizes, teachers can forge stronger and more meaningful relationships with their students. With a reduced number of children in each class, teachers can truly get to know each of them on a personal level, understanding their unique personalities, interests, and learning styles. This close connection fosters trust, communication, and a positive classroom environment, creating a sense of belonging and motivating students to actively engage in their learning.

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits

Enhanced Collaboration and Participation

Smaller class sizes promote increased collaboration and active participation among students. With fewer peers, students have more opportunities to engage in discussions, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. The intimate classroom setting encourages students to voice their opinions, ask questions, and take ownership of their learning. This dynamic interaction not only strengthens academic skills but also nurtures social-emotional development and critical thinking abilities.

Cultivating Multilingual Environments

In classrooms where not all children have English as a first language, smaller class sizes facilitate a more inclusive and supportive environment. Teachers can dedicate time to support language development for non-native English speakers, providing targeted language instruction and individualised support. With fewer students in the class, educators can better address the specific needs of multilingual learners, fostering their language acquisition and ensuring their successful integration into the learning community.

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits

Reduced Language Barriers and Enhanced Language Proficiency

Smaller class sizes also alleviate language barriers and enhance language proficiency for all students. With a lower student-to-teacher ratio, teachers can allocate more time for direct instruction, practice, and feedback on language skills. Students receive more individual attention, allowing them to progress at their own pace and receive targeted language support. This focused language instruction benefits not only non-native English speakers but also native English speakers, who can develop stronger communication skills and an appreciation for linguistic diversity.

Increased Engagement and Academic Achievement

The intimate setting of smaller schools contributes to increased student engagement and academic achievement. Students feel more connected to their learning environment, leading to higher levels of motivation and attentiveness. Teachers can design lessons that cater to individual student interests and incorporate hands-on activities, promoting active learning and deeper understanding. The result is improved academic performance, higher retention of knowledge, and a love for lifelong learning.

Enhanced Social and Emotional Well-being

Small schools and smaller class sizes foster a sense of community and support, positively impacting students' social and emotional well-being. The close-knit environment promotes positive relationships among students, reduces instances of bullying, and encourages empathy and inclusivity. Teachers can provide more targeted social-emotional support, helping students develop resilience, self-confidence, and a sense of belonging, which are essential for overall well-being and academic success.

Outside of the traditional classroom, having smaller groups of students can have a hugely beneficial impact on utilisation of additional teaching and learning spaces around the school.  For example, a school initially designed to accommodate a smaller number of students, but which has since increased in size, may find that spaces such as sports pitches, swimming pools or gymnasiums may be over-used or not available to all students when needed.  Dedicated spaces such as ICT rooms, music rooms, or theatres may also be impacted in this way.  At NAIS Pudong we have a wide range of specialist facilities which are accessible to teachers and students at any time, including for after school activities where we operate a multitude of academic, performing arts and sports options every afternoon as well as at weekends.

Smaller School, Bigger Benefits: Enhancing the Educational Experience-smaller school bigger benefits

Parents too may struggle in larger school settings to have their voices heard, with teachers in demand from families or students across multiple classes and year groups.  Feedback on students may not be as personalised as that found in smaller class settings, and demand for teacher time to discuss progress or concerns can be limited.  Head of Primary, Mr Richard Thompson, adds thatat NAIS Pudong we have an open-door policy which allows direct communication and feedback between teachers and parents, primarily through our online platforms, but also through emails, telephone calls and personal meetings with parents.  In addition, we have a structured reporting system which allows parents to see in detail how their child is progressing.  This close contact approach can get lost in larger school settings, so were proud to be able to offer this more personal approach here.

The advantages of small schools and smaller class sizes are evident in the enriched educational experience they offer. Through personalised attention, stronger teacher-student relationships, enhanced collaboration, and a focus on multilingual environments, these settings promote academic growth, inclusivity, and holistic development. By embracing the benefits of smaller class sizes, schools can create nurturing and engaging learning environments that empower students to thrive academically and personally, regardless of their language backgrounds.

At NAIS Pudong we pride ourselves on this nurturing environment and embrace it as we encourage our students to become creative, confident and considerate learners who are prepared for their futures beyond education.