Friday, November 7, 2008

Ideal Strength of a Classroom

What is the ideal strength of a classroom? How many students should a class have? In India, where I teach, at our University, this varies greatly in different courses. We are in New Delhi, the Indian capital, and our university has better facilities than most universities in the country. So, the infrastructure and the facilities that our university possesses in not, in any way, emblematic of the situation in the rest of the country. In most state universities in India, the conditions would be far dismal barring a few state universities which have been established long ago or which used to enjoy the patronage of the erstwhile kings before the Indian independence.

We teach various courses in English. I'm from the English department. The courses range from compulsory English grammar--my colleagues in the US tell me that they do not teach grammar but that they teach composition, rhetoric and writing--to undergraduate minor, undergraduate major in English, postgraduate and M.Phil. in English literature. The Compulsory English course in our university is known as General English. No one has ever bothered about the nomenclature as to why it should be called 'general English' or whether it should be called 'special English', 'English grammar' etc. I guess nomenclature of courses functions by historical convention and there isn't much into it otherwise.

General English is compulsory for all students studying in undergraduate courses in the faculties of Humanities and Languages, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences. The class strength is rather uneven and huge. There are some small groups where the students might number forty to fifty to a classroom but there are certain other groups where the students might number eighty to ninety to a classroom. It is again a reflection on the deteriorating state of education in our times that usually sixty to sixty five students normally attend a class where the total strength might be ninety students. Interestingly, the classrooms which are allocated to the teachers might not themselves have capacity to seat ninety people. There is one standardized syllabus that is taught across various courses as far as General English is concerned.

The classes where English minor is taught at the undergraduate level are a bit different. There the strength of the classroom is around forty students but the students are usually quite demotivated and it is expected that the teacher shall motivate them to read the prescribed texts.

Undergraduate English major classes have about fifty students to a class and they are motivated enough. The course is known as BA (Honours) in English and is a three year course, like all bachelor degree programmes in India. MA classes have around thirty students and M.Phil. classes have around eight to ten students.