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Pupil/teacher ratio in primary school

Global primary school attendance rates have been on a steady upward trend over the past years. As the world moves closer to the goal of universal primary education, the issue of education quality attracts increasing attention. One measure of education quality is the pupil/teacher ratio, the number of pupils per teacher in a school. Teachers of a large class can dedicate less time to each pupil than in a small class. For the pupils, crowded classrooms make it difficult to concentrate on the material and to learn. The results of overcrowding are lower academic achievement and increased dropout rates.

The map below displays the pupil/teacher ratio in primary school in 194 countries and territories for which data were available. The data were obtained from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. For 124 countries, the pupil/teacher ratios are from 2006, 12 countries have data from 2007, 42 countries have data from 2004 or 2005, and the remaining 16 countries have data from 1999 to 2003. For the map, all countries were divided into five groups:
  • Fewer than 10 pupils per teacher: 7 countries
  • 10 to 19 pupils per teacher: 90 countries
  • 20 to 29 pupils per teacher: 43 countries
  • 30 to 39 pupils per teacher: 27 countries
  • 40 or more pupils per teacher: 27 countries
Pupil/teacher ratio in primary school, circa 2006
Map of the world showing national pupil/teacher ratios in primary school
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Data Centre, May 2008.

The lowest pupil/teacher ratios in primary school were observed in Tokelau (5.8), San Marino (6.3), Bermuda (8.3), Liechtenstein (8.4), Denmark (9.9), and Sweden and Cuba (10.0). Most developed countries, countries in Eastern Europe and former members states of the Soviet Union have pupil/teacher ratios between 10 and 19. Some countries in East and South-East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America also belong to this group, among them China, the world's most populous country, with a pupil/teacher ratio of 18.3. The majority of countries in Latin America, as well as some countries in Africa and Asia, have pupil/teacher ratios between 20 and 29.

Pupil/teacher ratios above 30 are common in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 11 countries, primary school teachers have more than 50 pupils on average: Afghanistan (83.4), Mozambique (67.4), Rwanda (65.9), Chad (63.2), Mali (55.6), Congo (54.8), Burundi (54.2), Tanzania (53.1), Zambia (51.2), Bangladesh (50.9), and Cambodia (50.4). 22 of the 27 countries with 40 or more pupils per teacher are located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The following table lists the average pupil/teacher ratio in primary school by Millennium Development Goal region. The highest pupil/teacher ratios exist in Sub-Saharan Africa (40.7) and Southern Asia (37.8). In contrast, the average pupil/teacher ratio in the developed countries is 13.7. In Western Asia (17.8), the Commonwealth of Independent States (17.9), and Oceania (19.8), the average pupil/teacher ratio is also below 20. The global average is 24.6 pupils per teacher in primary school. All regional and global averages are not weighted the population of each country; instead, each country is given the same weight within its region, regardless of the size of its population.

Pupil/teacher ratio in primary school by MDG region, circa 2006
MDG region
Pupil/teacher ratio
Developed countries 13.7
Commonwealth of Independent States 17.9
Eastern Asia 23.4
South-Eastern Asia 26.5
Oceania 19.8
Southern Asia 37.8
Western Asia 17.8
Northern Africa 24.4
Sub-Saharan Africa 40.7
Latin America and the Caribbean 21.3
World 24.6
Data source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Data Centre, May 2008. Regional and global averages are unweighted.

The data analyzed in this article can be downloaded from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics Data Centre, under Predefined Tables - Education - Table 11: Indicators on teaching staff at ISCED levels 0 to 3.

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Friedrich Huebler, 26 October 2008 (edited 16 November 2006), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2008/10/ptr.html

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