Ministry of Education , Factsheets

FACTSHEET: Class size in British Columbia

Monday, May 26, 2014 10:00 AM

  • 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 improvement.  

  • Compared to other high-performing jurisdictions, British Columbia does not have large classes. This year's (2013-14) average class sizes are near historical lows of: 

    • 19.3 students for kindergarten.

    • 21.5 for grades 1 to 3. 

    • 25.7 for grades 4 to 7. 

    • 23.0 for grades 8 to 12. 

  • Since 2000-01, the number of students has decreased by approximately 70,000 (from 597,948 funded students to 527,910). This represents an 11.7-per-cent decline in the provincial student population.

  • According to Ministry of Education data, at 18.0 to one, B.C.'s full-time equivalent student-teacher ratio has remained relatively stable and virtually unchanged from 17.9 to one in 2000-01.

  • By provincial law, 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. Of B.C.'s 68,020 K-12 classes, 42 per cent have fewer than 24 students and 57 per cent have between 24 and 30 students. 

  • Less than two per cent of classes have more than 30 students, and two-thirds 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 physics).

  • Since 2005-06, the number of classes with more than 30 students has decreased from 9,253 to 1,067, an 88 per cent drop.

  • 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."  

Media Contact:

Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Education
250 356-5963

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