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We have to choose between 2 good schools but one of them is rather small. There are about 8 children in the class. Is it bad or good for a child to be in a low populated classroom? Social interaction will be a bit less, but than again the personal coaching will be better.

Our child would go there from 2.5 years until she reaches the age to go to a primary school at around 6.

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    One note: Kindergarten here in the title looks like it's being used in the German sense - meaning what Americans might call preschool. – Joe Dec 14 '15 at 20:15
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    Joe: Yes, there are some cultural differences in how it's named. I'm referring to the class a kid goes to when it's almost leaving the toddler stage @ 2.5 to 3 years – MichaelD Dec 14 '15 at 21:57
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At the age you're talking about, teacher:student ratio seems more important than student count. If the larger class you're looking at has a poorer ratio, I wouldn't choose that (absent other reasons for choosing).

Teacher to student ratio of 1:8 is a reasonable ratio at 3; at 2.5 I'd say it's even a little low. 2.5 year olds want - need - attention from adults, and it can be difficult in a larger class to get that attention. In my state (Illinois), 1:8 would be the maximum ratio allowed at 2.5; while you could have more than 8 kids in a class, you'd need more teachers.

Learning socialization is quite possible with a smaller group. Eight is plenty to have some diversity; you may want to find out how much diversity there actually is of course in both schools, of course.

My children (4 and 2.5) go to a morning preschool and afternoon daycare, and have both kinds of experiences. The morning preschool is large, 25 kids in the main class (Montessori style); the afternoon daycare is smaller, usually around 8 kids there. In the morning, while there are a lot of children there, my older child has only a couple of friends - most of the kids he doesn't really play with (when playing, of course they're doing work most of the day).

In the smaller setting, though, I find that he is more often interacting with all of the children - even the littler ones. I'm not sure why this is; whether a smaller group leads to it being easier to form relationships with all of them, perhaps because the larger group is overwhelming; or because a smaller group requires interacting with all of them from time to time; or something else. But it definitely leads to a more concrete social group rather than a bunch of small cliques or groups.

So - I would suggest that a class of 8 is fine, as far as learning socialization goes, and if it is the better school otherwise, particularly with teacher:student ratio, it would be a good choice.

  • Child:teacher ratio is one of the most important metrics. +1 – user420 Dec 14 '15 at 16:54
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    One of the most important? Defniitely. I'm not sure it's more important than student count as the opening line says. Not that you want to pack them in like sardines, but children go to these levels of school for so, so much more than the actual content. The most important thing my kids learned at this level were how to follow instructions, how to resolve conflicts with other kids, and how to socialize. Too high of a teacher-student ratio actually hinders the learning of these attributes as opposed to helps it. – corsiKa Dec 14 '15 at 20:09
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    @corsiKlauseHoHoHo Too high of a teacher-student ratio actually hinders the learning of these attributes as opposed to helps it. That is something I've wondered about myself. Do you have any studies that back that up or is this an intuitive statement? – Myles Dec 14 '15 at 20:58
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I personally would choose the smaller over the larger group for small children.

Social interaction always occurs between a few children at a time. Admittedly, the choice of "friends" is somewhat reduced in smaller classes, but there are significant benefits:

  • More attention from the teacher.
    Even the best teacher can only spend on average [time per school day]:[number of children] time watching over or interacting with your child - smaller classes means less attention, especially as there will always be those "special cases" that need more time due to social / academic / other challenges. Provided you have an attentive teacher this can mean special talents or weaknesses of your child get discovered earier and appropriate individual support is possible.
  • This allows for other teaching methods.
    With a small group, conducting experiments, discussions and teaching self-directed learning is easier. I don't say it is not feasible for larger classes, but it can be more difficult.
  • Reduced noise level
    Put twenty children in a classroom and you will be tempted to wear ear plugs. Even with good discipline there will be a significant noise level at times, if only from shuffling feet, silent murmurs and the odd noises children tend to make. And getting a handfull of small children to calm down is way easier that a large class.

Also note that a small class is excellent for "beginners", but the class might get more children over time - people move, change schools, classes get re-arranged... Unless you have reason to think otherwise (school policy, for example) I would not take the current class size as set in stone.

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The general consensus is that the smaller the classroom the more personal attention each child gets from the teacher and therefore the lesser the chance of any child slipping trough the proverbial cracks.

8 per class does seem like exceptionally few. Even at the most high brow establishments I'm from you would still expect 12 - 15 children per class.

  • 12-15 per class at 2.5 years old? Note that the use of "kindergarten" is (apparently?) in the German sense, not in the American sense. – Joe Dec 14 '15 at 20:15
  • aaah OK missed that part OK. – Neil Meyer Dec 15 '15 at 9:04

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