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By Aldwin R. Fajardo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 24, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---In what appears to be an indication of a classroom and teacher shortage in the islands, government records disclosed that only three public schools in the Northern Marianas have reached the ideal size of classes at 15 students per section.

All three schools are incidentally outside Saipan where majority of the NMI population are concentrated, according to official statistics from the Public School System.

Several government and private studies conducted in the mainland United States noted that class size has to be 15 or fewer to have a significant impact on student achievement.

This means that only Rota Elementary and Junior High School, Rota High School and Tinian Junior and High School have achieved the most ideal size of an education class.

PSS figures showed that there are 15 students for every one teacher in Rota Elementary and Junior High School, while the condition in Rota High School and Tinian Junior and High School is better at 12 students for every teacher.

The highest number of students per one teacher during the School Year 1999-2000 was recorded in San Vicente Elementary School at 28 pupils for every one educator.

The average student-teacher ratio in all of the public schools throughout the Northern Marianas is 20:1, although some educational institutions like San Vicente Elementary School have classes with more than 20 students.

Many research studies on student learning and class size have found that once class size exceed about 20, the students' achievement are more likely to be affected.

However, one major consideration blamed on the higher class size in the Northern Marianas is cost. The PSS would need an additional budget to fund the hiring of additional teachers in order to reduce class size on the island.

Education officials said as much as they would like to have smaller classes, this is a complex issue, which must be considered in light of available resources like teachers, classrooms and money.

This, even as Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio pledged that the education sector will be the first among public offices to receive supplemental funding when government revenues start picking up.

The governor supported the Public School System's efforts to deal with its limited budget while continuing to deliver essential education-related programs aimed at upgrading the quality of learning in the Northern Marianas.

Despite a significant reduction in its annual allocation, the PSS managed to construct 40 new classrooms in several grade schools, which helped minimize over-crowding.

Prompt completion of the Dandan Elementary School was a welcome development, while officials are optimistic that construction of the Kagman School will be completed later this year.

"To its credit, PSS has made great sacrifices to deal with the reality of declining revenues, and as the economy improves, and as more funds are available, the PSS budget will increase," Mr. Tenorio said.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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