In the early 2000s, Québec’s Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport implemented a measure to reduce preschool and elementary cycle one class sizes with the aim of fostering school success, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
In determining the effects of this measure, certain questions arise: Under what conditions was this measure implemented in Québec schools? What impact did the measure have on learning, educational practices and early intervention? What were the consequences on student performance and integration? To answer these questions, an analysis of international literature on class size reduction in preschool and elementary cycle one was carried out, followed by a study of the measure’s impact in Québec schools.
The real effects of class size reduction are difficult to evaluate.
The results of the study, along with the majority of international research into the subject, show that the real effects of class size reduction in preschool and elementary cycle one are difficult to evaluate. In practice, class size reduction is associated with various concomitant factors that cannot be controlled. Reduction leads to improvements from a social standpoint in terms of classroom behaviour, teacher-student relations and relations between students themselves. These improvements are more visible in handicapped students and students with adaptation or learning difficulties, as well as in cultural minorities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To be effective, class size reduction in preschool and elementary cycle one needs to be associated with other conditions such as an increase in financial resources, adequate financial planning and management and specialized teacher training.
Bernard Terrisse, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: April 2011