Assignment Paper: An Intervention Proposal for the Reduction of Inuit Dropout in Taloyoak
The word community comes from the two words, "common" and "unity" meaning oneness. Hence true "community" consists of people who live together in ways that recognize, nurture and sustain their "common oneness." Suicide Prevention Training Programs (SPTP), (1998).
True community. Common oneness. These holistic terms could describe many of the isolated Inuit communities scattered around the north. Inuit families are extremely closely knit units which work together to create a sense of community where all members are interconnected with one another. As an outsider to this community, a transplanted southern teacher, I have learned many things about Inuit culture over these last few years with regards to Inuit education.
Although I have lived in Taloyoak (an isolated Inuit community of approximately 700 members in the high arctic) for over seven years, I am constantly amazed at the numbers of students who do not attend school. Despite the creation of community high schools where students can now graduate with a grade 12 diploma without leaving home, over 95% of Inuit students in Canada still dropout (Hagstrom, Kleinfeld, & McDiarmid, 1989).
As a teacher, I find this extremely disappointing and frustrating. My attitude towards student dropout has changed since I first decided to research this issue three years ago. Even so, I am still disappointed when my students suddenly stop attending school opting instead to simply sleeping in or watching television.
It is for this reason that I want to increase the awareness of the dropout problem with the community and work to develop a community action program with the stakeholders (parents, teachers, students, principals, community leaders, elders, board members, post-secondary institutions, etc.) . This paper is intended to propose a possible plan to reduce the number of Inuit youth who dropout in Taloyoak.
As M.Scott Peck (SPTP, 1988) identifies, true communities have the characteristics of commitment to each other, consensus in the decision making process, transcendence or the ability to rise above difficulties, and the realistic outlook to allow all voices to be heard. I believe Taloyoak can be considered a true community by this criteria as well as by the criteria outlined by Dillman (Gougeon, unpublished) who argues that community characteristics are determined by the discernible patterns of interaction with others. (An analysis of Taloyoak using the criteria provided by Dillman was previously completed in an earlier paper.) As such a community, I believe that Taloyoak should be able to develop a holistic program to help students realize their educational goals. This process is one in which I, as an educator and long term citizen of Taloyoak, are willing to help facilitate.
Fussell (1996) writes that "development is the process whereby people make life easier for each other by collaborating in the formulation of a vision and collective action for resolution of perceived needs" (p. 47). I believe that lowering the dropout rate, thereby raising the educational attainment of the members of the community will create a better community. When the community works together to development in this area they will make life easier for one another in a collective action (Fussell, 1996).
What may be difficult in the initial stages of reducing Inuit dropout is creating an awareness amongst community members that youth dropout is a felt need (Connor, 1997). When discussing dropout among other educators, there is general consensus that the rate of student dropout is horrendous. Unfortunately, is it my experience that those outside of the educational arena are almost accepting of the dropout numbers and may not regard this concern to be an issue.
Connor (1997) explains that in most cases, a communitys felt needs may be relatively few when compared to the number of unfelt needs. I believe this may be the case with the youth dropout issue in the community. When I speak to my students about the problems for teens in Taloyoak, they list: suicide, alcohol, drugs, abuse, teen breakup and other such issues. Although these are important, I believe that when students dropout of school, there problems are compounded and they lose a potential support system to help them deal with their other issues. Many of the problems that students list can be helped through school counselling and education. Thus, one important step in dealing with the dropout problem is to create an awareness of the issue within the community and encourage community members to buy into a process of action.
Fussell (1996) goes on to state:
The solving of a problem typically involves a phase where new insight in the form of experience-knowledge is brought to bear on the situation. The new insight will lead to an adjustment in beliefs about the situation, and is a necessary precondition for the identification of the appropriate response for the problem (p. 48).
Although there will always be students who opt of school, I have believe that the Inuit youth dropout rate in Taloyoak can be considerably reduced to manageable levels.
It is my hope that the Inuit dropout problem can be resolved by raising the issue and facilitating a process by which a new insight on the problem of Inuit youth dropout.
To be a community development worker requires a wealth of understanding of the given community as well as the various strategies involved in the facilitation of development. Community development requires one to consider three areas: attitude, method or process, and outcome (SPTP, workshop, 1998). (It may be useful to clarify that I attended a Community Development workshop devoted to the development of an action plan to reduce the number of Aboriginal suicides occurring in the north. This workshop was supported by RCMP/ Community Suicide Prevention Program and was held in Yellowknife, April 1998). This information is included in part because it deals directly with Aboriginal communities and offers valuable insight on the Native culture respect to community development.) The attitude component asks that the community development worker consider both their personal attitudes and the communitys attitudes to the issue; this was done briefly earlier in this paper. Also, the worker must investigate the values and beliefs of the parties involved. This is especially important when working with such a small, tight knit community as Taloyoak. Everyone is interconnected with everyone else so decisions made affect all. The dropout issue involved many people in the community at as a community development worker it is extremely important to consider all perspectives.
Connor (1997) Understanding your Community provides an excellent model by which to systematically consider all aspects of the community using a twelve point Social Compass. (This investigation was completed in an earlier paper on Inuit dropout, October 1999). The method or process of development is the second step in the program which asks the worker to consider exactly how this development is going to work towards resolution of the problem. Finally, the worker must consider the desired outcome of the process.
SPTP (1988) uses the model of a wheel to visually represents community development. SPTP (1988) states that the Community Development Wheel must incorporate the element of reflection. As a continuous circle, the community development must place reflection at its hub. Reflection inward and outward is important throughout the turning of the wheel: Goal Setting (setting realistic goals and identifying needs as a starting point), Initiating Action (determining who and what is needed to get the process going), Preserving (the ability to overcome barriers in the process and keep things moving forward) and Reviewing the Journey (celebrating successes and reevaluating the progress in order to set new goals). This Community Development Wheel (SPTP, 1998) is not unlike the community development process proposed by Connor (1997) in his manual, Public Participation: A Manual, How to Prevent and Resolve Public Controversy with the exception of the emphasis which SPTP (1988) has on reflection. As a development worker, I believe that reflection is important and in using the program design outlined by Connor (1997) I would like to include both the elements of Reflection and Reviewing the Journey discussed in the SPTP (1988) manual.
"The underlying principal of community development is: We can do together what we cannot do alone" (State of Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 1990, p.1). The community development worker is one who strives to pull people together by encouraging community members to get involved. Thus community development worker must consider all aspects of the community: social, cultural, spiritual, economical, and political (State of Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 1990). Native communities especially tend to value cultural and spiritual aspects and the Inuit of Taloyoak are no different. As a community development worker who is not of the same culture as the majority of community members, I must be very aware of all of these aspects when designing a program.
At this point in the discussion, it is important to examine my perspective with respect to the Inuit dropout issue. As stated earlier, although there is a great number of students who are dropping out of school by choice, I do not believe that the community as a whole believes that this is a felt need for development. I, on the other hand, am a teacher and thus have first hand experience of the situation; for example my Music 10 class started the semester with over fifteen students and now our class is down to two students to play in the Christmas concert. This is my reality and the reality of my colleagues who face similar such abandonment and empty classrooms.
Thus, my goal for community development is to create a program to encourage growth and development of Inuit students in todays world. I would like to encourage a holistic program that considers the cultural, spiritual, social, economical, and political aspects of the community while ensuring that it places no limits on the child. The Inuit student should not find himself or herself limited in their future choices given their educational situation.
My perspective on the issue of dropout has undergone much change throughout my study and in some ways my views have become less clear and perhaps could be considered less professional. As a teacher, I am expected to strongly support the ideal that all students should achieve one year of education per chronological year; I should support the ideal that all students are to be educated in a formalized school setting. However, these ideals have been swayed through my readings and through my experiences.
I still believe strongly in the public education system and I do believe that many more of our students could be graduating from school now that we have community high schools. What has changed is my idea that all children do best in such a western-based educational system. I understand that Taloyoak is part of the global community and that our students need to learn ways that will help them deal with this extended world but I have come to the realisation that perhaps some children would do better given the option of alternative educational programs.
The program design by Connor (1997) gives the opportunity to generate alternative ideas which, when generated by those in the community, may provide a wider opportunity for educational success than what is currently in place. According to Ross (1992), it is a mistake to assume that "Indians were probably just primitive versions of us, a people who needed only to catch up to escape the poverty and despair which afflicts far too many of their communities" (p. xxii). Unlike some other programs, which simply push the Euro-Canadian view of education, I believe that Native communities need to find alternatives to the current educational process in order to reduce the number of students who give up on learning.
Developing such a program will not be easy because in creating alternatives, one must not be limiting those students who are currently succeeding in the system and wish to go into the greater global job market . I believe that the holistic program required must be one that values:
1) global educational programs (current educational diplomas like those recognised by Canadian universities and colleges outside of Nunavut);
2) Inuit culture and language programs (like Inuktitut immersion and land-based programs); and,
3) life skills programs to help Inuit deal with modern day life and the integration of Native and non-Native attitudes (Ross, 1997).
The first step to creating such a program is to raise the awareness of the dropout issue with those in the community and in the Nunavut government. Much of the power to create change rests in the hands of the Nunavut government who determines the amount of financial support to be given into the educational programs in Taloyoak. As Archibald & Swinth (1990) state, one of the main roles of the community development practitioners is to initiate discussion among people in small rural communities, like Taloyoak, to expose the power relations that limit development.
Hopefully, once the community of Taloyoak agrees that youth dropout is a serious issue, they will be able to petition Nunavut government to let them take part in the decisions that directly affect their children. In the past, The Government of Northwest Territories (GNWT) was responsible for all educational decisions. From the statements subsequently made by Nunavut officials, many of these decisions did not consider the values and beliefs of Inuit communities.
This power dependency (Archibald & Swinth, 1990) may have negatively affected the community; nevertheless, the new Nunavut Government needs to be aware that the people in the small communities have the right to participate in decision made about their education. The community development worker should encourage community people to realize that they can and should get involved. Also, if possible, the Member of Parliament for Taloyoak should be involved in the intervention program design so that the communitys views are understood and supported by those in the Nunavut Government.
Planning has been defined as the act of deciding what to do about some community affair while, meanwhile, life is bringing it around to a firm conclusion (Rothman, 1995, p. 27)
Developing an action plan is never simple; it demands that all the factors, contradictions, complexities and rough edges around the issue are considered in the plan. Especially when working on such a passionate issue as student dropout, the plan must be very careful to value all perspectives. Rothman (1995) describes three approaches to community intervention according to selected practice variables. For Inuit dropout, I believe that Rothman (1995) Mode A - Locality Development is the best suited.
The goal of community action according to Mode A (Rothman, 1995) is community capacity and self-help. Students have the opportunity to actually graduate from high school without leaving home, but somehow they are choosing not to. I believe that the community needs to look within to solve the problem; Mode A (Rothman, 1995) infers that there is an internal locus of control and this matches my understanding of the problem.
As an aside, it is interesting to note how this locus of control as switched once high schools came to the community. In the past, students were required to travel far distances away from home to residential schools in order to complete their education. Homesickness and eventual dropout was the outcome for many potential Inuit youth in such a program. In this way, dropout was caused by a force external to the community because students were not set up for success. What is unfortunate is that the dropout rate continues to be high even though students are no longer forced to choose between family and school. The locus of control for the problem has become internal which is an element of Mode A (Rothman, 1995).
According to Rothman (1995), Mode A states that the change strategy is to involve a broad cross section of people in determining and solving the problem. Solving the dropout issue will also require a wide range of people: students, parents, non-Native and Native teachers, Board of Education members, elders, principal, District Educational Authority (D.E.A.), community leaders, and others who are affected. Again, I must emphasize that all perspectives on the dropout issue should be considered. Change must come from within the community not from without, so those in the community must be represented in the decision making process. For those parties who cannot physically attend, their participation can be achieved through an understanding advocate.
The community development worker takes on the role of enable-catalyst, or teacher of problem-solving skills who guides all, task-oriented groups to discuss change (Rothman, 1995). The total geographical community is affected by this issue and the beneficiaries of increased educational attainment levels are the citizens of Taloyoak (Rothman, 1995). Change techniques in small isolated Inuit families have traditionally been consensus where there is communication among all groups involved; this is also a characteristic of Mode A (Rothman, 1995). Finally, Rothman (1995) states the empowerment is used to help communities build the capability to make informed decisions to gain a sense of self-government or personal mastery by the those involved. I believe that the following program design will be able to facilitate all of these expectations within locality development.
There are many structures to implementing community development but one of the most comprehensive and understandable formats comes from Connor (1997). Connor (1997) provides many suggestions and identifies the main pitfalls that a community development plan can encounter. The four overall steps of the program design by Connor (1997) are:
1. start-up and initial data gathering;
2. alternative generating phase;
3. the evaluation phase of the alternatives against relevant criteria; and,
4. a final report and conclusion phase.
I would also like to add two more steps to this program:
5. Approval; and
Throughout this program design, SPTP (1998) reminds community workers that "no one can develop anyone else. The community development worker does not develop the community. The community develops itself" (p. 3). Instead, the community development worker assists and encourages the community in the solving of problems. It is important that the community development worker remember these suggestions when partaking in the program design.
This is the first step towards community development and as such it is very important to make a good foundation for change. "Community development means community involvement" (SPTP, 1998). My role in this first step is to initiate discussion of the issue by raising the awareness of the problem. Once people start discussing the issue, data gathering can occur almost simultaneously. The type of data to be gathered at this point will probably be more general in nature: attitudes, anecdotes, stories, surveys and personal accounts. Other important data to be included are statistics, percentages of dropout and levels of educational attainment of youth in the community.
Initiating discussion will be facilitated in a variety of ways. For example: home visits, radio shows, posters, newsletters, cablevision, etc. Once the community is aware that this issue has been raised, it will be beneficial to hold an Open House. Connor (1997) discusses the advantages to holding an Open House over holding the problematic public meeting. I agree that public meetings can generate many negative feelings and this is unhealthy when wanting to initial change.
I suspect that many parents will feel anxious when discussing this issue because they may feel that sending their children is actually interfering in the childs life (Ross, 1997). Ross (1997) explains that many Native parents have difficulty making their children do things because of an internal ethic of non-interference. To them, making a child do something that they do not want to do is overstepping this ethic (Ross, 1997). Dropouts may become defensive because they know that they are at the crux of the issue. Teachers may feel vulnerable because is some cases, teachers are the first to blame when students no longer want to come to school. All of these feelings are underlying, so it is important that the community development worker be aware of this situation.
Connor (1997) suggests that the Open House be held in a valued local space and in this case I will hold the Open House at the Hamlet chambers. This area is located centrally in the community, has ample seating around a long circular desk, is brightly light and is decorated beautifully by a large polar bear skin wall hanging. Holding the Open House at the Hamlet chambers instead of at the school may also encourage those people would feel apprehensive of the school to give their input in a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment.
The Open House will run over an extended period of time or over a number of days with a variable schedule so that individuals who have other commitments can attend when convenient. The number of staff will be increased when it is expected that more people may attend to eliminate overcrowding (Connor, 1997). The Hamlet of Taloyoak will be approached to transport those individuals who cannot get to the Open House on their own. Also, house bound community members will be encouraged to participate either by giving their input over the phone or by having a staff member visit them in their home.
Connor (1997) also recommends that panels of information be displayed in order to provide background of the issue and program objectives. This information will be in English and in Inuktitut and will also be provided on listening tapes for those individuals who are unable to read in either language. Connor (1997) also mentions having an automatic slide presentation or a short video be available; this is ideal for those who learn best through visual input. All of the panels of information will initially be presented to and approved by the D.E.A. before the public Open House; in this way the D.E.A. can be seen to support the program design. Also, it will be necessary to keep the information and the discussions professional and in line with what is expected by the Federation of Nunavut Teachers (F.N.T.) Code of Ethics due to the nature of the issue, student dropout.
The well identified staff (wearing name and role tags) involved will be able to discuss the issue of dropout openly with those who attend. It will be necessary to have Inuit members on the staff who are not only translators but are members of the team. Translators only translate; team members have passion and are able to really take part in the program.
In my experience, many Inuit people are better able to express their thoughts and feelings in small groups or one-on-one with others. Thus, I would encourage the Open House staff to be considerate of this element of Inuit communication and make changes in dialogue where needed. This may require going to a quieter location in the room or moving the tables to create smaller, round-table type conferences.
Staff would also need to know the tendencies that Inuit people have towards conversation and body language; for example, yes is usually unspoken and is signaled with raised eyebrows whereas no is signaled as the crunching up of the nose. Also, the word boring may not necessarily mean boring as it is commonly used by southerners; a staff member may have to pry harder by asking for an example of boring in order to understand exactly what is meant by the word.
Connor (1997) reminds us that the character of the Open House is free flowing conversation; it is not the adversarial type approach often found in public meetings. Staff will record responses, comments, concerns and questions and be willing to follow-up with visitors who have questions that are can not be immediately answered (Connor, 1997). All visitors will be asked to complete a short survey (in English or Inuktitut) to generate quantitative data on the issue before they exit the Open House (Connor, 1997). This survey can also identify members of the community who wish to become part of an Advisory Group (Reeves, 1997) to work more extensively on the issue.
Facilitating the start up phase is not my only role in this process. The second responsibility of my role would be as a listener; Ross (1992) explains that listening is far more valuable than asking for advice or for recommendations. He explains that as he "became better at listening, people had more to say" (Ross, 1992, p. 21). As a non-Native member of Taloyoak, I have had many experiences of trying to communicate with Inuit parents and community members about educational issues like dropout and attendance. Like Ross (1992), I often find it difficult to understand exactly what my friends are trying to say; I and many other southern teachers often conclude that Inuit people do not really care about modern education and are just nonsupportive. Ross (1992) writes that it is really important to learn to listen:
As I began to learn how to listen, two things became clear. First contrary to my earlier impression, it was obvious that people not only cared a great deal about things but had also given them a great deal of thought. Second, they most certainly held definite views about what the appropriate responses should be. The would not, however, give those views directly. Instead, they would recite and subtly emphasize, often only through repetition, the facts that led towards their preferred conclusion. The listener, of course, had to find that conclusion himself. It became, in that way, his conclusion too. (p. 22).
Ross (1992) teaches me that to be a community development worker in a Native community requires that I not just listen but I must listen behind what is being said and to what is not being said. Inuit people do care about their children and when given a chance to express their thoughts in a non-threatening environment, these people have valuable input and are willing to participate in the betterment of their community.
Once the public Open House is completed, the community worker is armed with a wealth of information. At this point Reeves (1997) recommends establishing two types of Advisory Groups: Local and Specialist. This idea is a great way to effectively ensure that all stakeholders in the dropout issue are represented and their views considered in the formation of a plan. The Local Advisory Group will include: parents, students, dropouts, elders, community leaders, and business members. The Specialist Advisory Group will include: Native teachers, non-Native teachers, the principal, D.E.A., and the Kitikmeot Board of Education.
When working with an Inuit community who values culture and spirituality, I will want to remember to begin each meeting with a prayer from an elder and I may even invite a member to light a kullik (Inuit lamp) to open the meeting. These two elements will help to set the tone for the meeting with positive feelings towards both culture and spirituality.
Before breaking into Advisory Groups it is important to generate set goals for the program. Goal Setting is the first quadrant in SPTP (1998) Community Development Wheel and SPTP (1998) recommends that the objectives be specific, measurable, achievable and consistent with the goal of reduced Inuit youth dropout. Once both Advisory Groups have internalised the goals, Reeves(1997) recommends that the groups participate in workshop-type meetings where information is given and taken in by organisers.
The Local Advisory group will be provided with information about: the importance of attaining southern standards of education in order to secure jobs in the current job market; the requirements for graduation diplomas as mandated through Alberta Department of Education (our current program of studies across Nunavut); the legal responsibilities of parents to send their children to school; the current educational methodology and discipline policy of Netsilik school; the statistics regarding student dropout at Netsilik School, and the other such quantitative information.
The Specialist Advisory Group has different needs primarily because I foresee that the majority of this group will be non-Natives and may not have the background knowledge required to understand some of the underlying issues relating to Inuit dropout. This Specialist Advisory Group will be provided with information dealing with: the cultural background of Inuit; the traditional learning styles of Inuit; the past oppression of Inuit in residential schools; the history of the formalized educational system in the north; the cultural expectation of education for Inuit families; the communication style of Inuit people; and, the current community situation lifestyle considerations of Inuit families.
Advisory Groups will also be asked to complete a capacity inventory in order to identify those people who are willing to contribute to the development. The SPTP (1998) recommends using a survey entitled, "Releasing Individual Capacities," which asks members to give information about their skills and abilities in a wide range of areas (health, office, food, child care, transportation, operating equipment and repairing machinery, supervision, sales, music, security, and other). This survey will be used to help the community development worker quickly locate a member of the community when their skills can be of service to the program at a later date.
Finally, SPTP (1998) discusses some important preventative strategies to minimize barriers which relate nicely to some of the preventive measures outlined by Connor (1997). SPTP (1998) suggests that the community development worker keep the commitment and activities simple in the beginning. Community development requires clear communication and the avoidance of turf issues and hidden agendas (SPTP, 1998). It is important for the community development worker to spend time getting to know the other members and make special effort to include new members; celebrating success and accomplishment with fun activities may be one way to learn about others in a non-threatening way (SPTP, 1998). Lastly, SPTP (1998) agrees with Connor (1997) that it is important to develop clear roles for members and encourage members to be forward about their needs. Remembering these important tips can be very beneficial along the way through the program design.
This phase is one of my favourites because it allows everyone in the group to participate by brainstorming ideas for solutions to the problem. I will treat this like a true brainstorming session where all ideas are valued and the sky is the limit. This open-ended approach will hopefully loosen the creative juice of the Advisory Groups and turn the discussions into the envisioning of solutions.
As well as brainstorming new alternative solutions, Connor (1997) states that the main initiative of this phase is to lay out the alternatives solutions that are presently known as well as the proposed evaluation criteria for solutions. It is important to be sure that all members understand the criteria as determined by the Nunavut Education Act: 1. all students under the age of sixteen are required to attend school either in a formal education institution or in an approval home-school program; and, 2. students are required complete the curriculum as outlined in the program of studies. According to Connor (1997) further criteria may be developed and I foresee that the Advisory Group members will require that alternate solutions be culturally inclusive and in line with the community belief systems.
Below are a number of alternative solutions that are already known and will be presented to the Advisory Groups:
16/26 Level programs become a feeder for vocational programs offered by Nunavut Arctic College. In 1997, I participated in a 16/26 Level committee which proposed to integrate the 16/26 Level program and the Nunavut Arctic College programs into one continuous stream of advancement. As it stands now, students who complete the 16/26/36 stream do not actually graduate with a high school diploma. Our idea is to feed into Nunavut Arctic College programs by using prerequisite course material and Nunavut Arctic College entrance examinations as 16/26 Level exit requirements. This would ensure students have the opportunity to enter programs directly from high school without actually having to graduate first.
Increasing the number of Inuit staff in schools will ensure that cultural values and beliefs are being met by students. In her book Teaching in a Cold and Windy Place, Tompkins (1998) found that it was possible to increase the number of Inuit staff members by opting to hire two unqualified Inuit teaching assistants in the place of one southern qualified teacher. She felt that having more emphasis on Inuit culture in the schools helped to retain students who felt pushed out of school by an insensitive southern based education system. Although the increased staff members would be unqualified, Tompkins (1998) believes that with proper supervision of teaching and curriculum, the educational standard would not be lowered.
Qualified Inuit teachers would be better than non-qualified teaching assistants. A number of people in this community would be able to complete the Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP) but refuse to enter the program because it is offered away from home and family. Moving such long distances is a real problem for may potential teachers. Having a local NTEP program running in Taloyoak would encourage our residents to attend the program and hopefully result in more Inuit teachers role modelling Inuit culture in the school.
On the land programs could be offered as a option for students who have difficulty learning in the current programs. Although students would require some specific instruction in the classroom, many of the programs could be slightly altered to more of a focus on traditional land skills. On such program was implemented in Cambridge Bay where the teacher used dog teaming as the focus for teaching business mathematics, language arts, science, geography and health care. His class actually raised a team of dogs which needed to be exercised and cared for regularly by the class.
Outpost camp living is also a possibility. Nunavut government has a program for families who wish to move to an outpost camp for a length of time. It is expected that an adult in the group becomes a tutor for the children who work through the curriculum as followed by the school.
Home School Programs are also available and parents are expected to follow the curriculum guidelines as set by the ministry. Material and curriculum guides are provided by the school.
Home School/Regular School mix programs are also possible where students are taught at home by a tutor but are also allowed to participate with the regular school class in some instances (ex. physical education classes, science fair, and music classes ).
Correspondence courses are available for students who wish to continue school at home on their own. This is especially helpful for students who cannot attend regular classes because of family obligations. Usually a teacher at the school is available to help tutor when needed.
Scheduling changes may also be a possible alternative. We would have very low attendance in June if we held classes; thus the D.E.A. opted to change the school year to run from August to May in order to coincide with the times that families are living on the land and hunting. It may also be possible to break the year up to allow for a longer break at Christmas, when attendance is low, or in the spring, when families start lengthier camping and hunting activities.
Semester versus Terms: In the last three years, Netsilik School has switched its Junior High and Senior High programs to the semester system. This benefits the student who has difficulty completing long term courses because they are able to complete a course in a shorter length of time. Also, students who do drop out of school are then encouraged to start again in January instead of having to wait until the next August (DaSilva & Hallett, unpublished). Unfortunately, when students have poor attendance, each day they miss is actually twice the number of classes they would miss in a term system. Some northern schools have experimented in a variety of block scheduling systems and further research would need to be done in order to reveal the outcome of such programs in northern communities.
Daily scheduling may also be altered. Our school day currently starts at 8:20 AM with a free breakfast, computer access, and gym activities. Classes start at 8:50 AM, ending at 12:00 PM for lunch and resuming at 1:00 PM until 3:30 PM. We are currently foregoing recess. Some people have suggested starting school later (10:00 AM) and others have suggested evening classes.
Day care is one problem that our female students often admit causes them to dropout. Unfortunately, a Hamlet endeavour to create a day care near the school ended before anything could be achieved. Day care may be an issue that needs to be revived.
Increase the number of student exchange programs. One study by DaSilva & Hallett (unpublished), Northern Lights: A Research Study of Successful High School Students Across Nunavut, stated that successful students were those who participated in exchange programs. These opportunities allowed students to experience the greater world and understand now their education can help them "to participate in the world" (DaSilva & Hallett, p.7).
Implement clear rules to increase a positive learning environment. The same study (DaSilva & Hallett, unpublished), found that successful students believe that clear and consistent school rules helped them. Not only did clearer school rules help students succeed but DaSilva & Hallett (unpublished) recommend that "ways be found to mimic the benefits of residence living within the current structure of community schooling" (p. 17).
Study Halls can also help students succeed in school and may also curb dropout. DaSilva & Hallett (unpublished) also recommend that study halls be offered to students so that they can work in a quiet, safe environment
Finally, it is important to celebrate accomplishments of students at various levels not just when students graduate. DaSilva & Hallett (unpublished) recommend schools to implement celebrations to motivate students to pursue higher levels.
Advisory Groups need to know what other programs in Northern schools are being conducted to curb dropout. The above are just a few suggestions and hopefully when these are presented new ideas will come out of the Advisory Group that will be relevant to the student population in Taloyoak.
My role as a community development worker is as a facilitator in this section of the program design. I will keep the meeting going and encourage others to accept new ideas as they are brainstorming. The document Pulling Together, by the State of Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services (1990) suggests that the community development worker keep informed about how things are going and let the community know what is going on. Pulling Together (State of Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 1990) considers the element of reflection which is consistent with the SPTP (1998) Community Development Wheel. I will be sure to provide appropriate feedback to others in the community while also reflecting on the program and my development through this process.
Another important feature in my role at this point is to be sure to head off potential controversy. Connor (1997) describes some basic principles to prevent and resolve public controversy; I believe that mutual trust is very important in Inuit community development. Traditionally, Inuit lived in small isolated family clans; this mentally did not automatically change the minute Inuit came to live in larger communities. Thus it is important for me, as a non-Native, to realize that to make change, I must be trusted and become part of the family. Mutual trust also refers to trust amongst the members of the group.
Time is another important principle that Connor (1997) identifies; he believes that it is necessary to "start early, be cost-effective in the use of citizens time and respect periods which are important to the community" (p. 24). Time needs to be considered as part of the plan to avoid controversy.
This third phase is where the Advisory Groups will weigh technically sound alternatives against the predetermined criteria. Advisory Groups will be encouraged to use reflection (SPTP, 1998) and to use a variety of questioning techniques to evaluate the plan against the objectives and goals of the issue. Playing the devils advocate, although not well liked, may be an significant role for me as a community development worker so that the Advisory Group members are able to work out unforeseen problems with their choices.
The public will then be invited to another Open House where they will be informed of the various possible alternatives and asked to rank them according to their value (Connor, 1997). This Open House will work much like the first with regard to scheduling and provisions for transportation and translation. Again, as a community development worker, I will be responsible for setting up the meeting as before and providing the information in ways that can be best transmitted to the public. I will also be sure that all stakeholders will be represented and personally invited to attend the Open House.
A training session will be provided for those on the Advisory Groups who wish to participate as one of the staff members for the Open House. The staff at the Open House is required to gather information from the visitors. They must also be willing to interpret the information for those visitors who need help. It is important that I do not try to push any one idea but rather let the choice be made by the community members themselves (State of Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, 1990). An exit survey will again be implemented so that quantitative information can be collected (Connor, 1997).
The information gathered from the Open House will be taken back to the Advisory Groups for evaluation and reflection (Reeves, 1997). At this point the Advisory Groups will discuss the responses and determine an appropriate plan of action. By the end of this process the Advisory Groups will have become a supportive team; their knowledge and awareness of the issues will have been developed which will make them more effective when dealing with the public (Reeves, 1997). At the end of this process, a plan will be chosen that comes from the community.
The final report will explain the public participation process, the ranking of the alternatives by the public from the second Open House (Connor, 1997), and the final selection alternative by the Advisory Groups. It is my responsibility as a community development worker to prepare this final report. The final report will then be presented by myself or another member of the Advisory Groups for approval. Depending on the complexity of the alternative program, it will be presented to: Taloyoak D.E.A., Hamlet of Taloyoak, Kitikmeot Board of Education, Government of Nunavut Minister of Education, and Federation of Nunavut Teachers. Once appropriate approval is given, the program should be free to be implemented.
Approval can be a long and tiresome process (Connor, 1997). Approval of a plan is a real success for members who were involved in the whole journey. SPTP (1998) recommends that the community development worker celebrate this success with the members. I will plan a dessert party for these members at my home and I will send letters of thanks to those who participated. The next meeting date will be set after a decent time for reflecting and refreshing.
Once approval is gained, the Advisory Groups will meet again to reflect on the process and gather feedback. Also, the Advisory Groups will be required to set a time limit for evaluation of the program. I believe this step is important because although a program may seem valid in theory, when things are implemented, new problems could arise. These Advisory Groups must be willing to meet regularly for a period of time and maintain an eye on the situation. Also, sufficient time must be given before the program is determined ineffective. Another goal setting activity will be completed where criteria for success is outlined.
Workshops will be developed to inservice all those affected by the new plan. The teachers, principal, D.E.A., students, dropout youth and parents need to know exactly what this new alternative program entails. They must be aware of new expectations and their responsibilities in making the program successful. Sufficient time will be given for these people to internalise and understand their roles. Inservice workshops will be presented which will outline all the relevant changes and the depth of the program.
Connor (1997) outlines the process of a workshop. Connor (1997) considers: participants (representative members, resource people, and workshop leader), the appropriateness of time and place, agenda (length, break times), costs (meals, transportation, snacks, equipment) and minutes (to be distributed after the meeting).
Implementation can make or break a new program. No matter how good a program is in theory, it is only as good as what occurs in reality. Carefully considering the implementation and workshop element of this program is crucial. My role as a community development worker would be to make sure that everyone gets the appropriate information and the workshop runs smoothly. An alternative program to curb Inuit dropout in Taloyoak impacts all stakeholders so it is important to keep all perspectives in mind.
As stated earlier, there are many possible program designs when undergoing community development. I chose the four step program design outlined by Connor (1997) because it was clear and concise. I also incorporated ideas from the Community Development Wheel of SPTP (1998) like reflection and goal setting. I believe that together, these ideas provide a solid program design for community development with respect to the issue of Inuit dropout in Taloyoak.
I have stated the various roles that I would have to take as a community development worker: facilitator, listener, organiser, presenter, encourager and writer of the final report. I also believe strongly that a program for the community should be from the community so I have made an effort to include all the many stakeholders who are impacted by student dropout.
I am optimistic that by following through the program design as described in this paper the issue of Inuit dropout will be addressed and hopefully Inuit students will be provided with more options to further their education.
Archibald, A. & Swinth R.L. (1990). Power and dependence between the core and rural communities: Participating with Major Actors in Solving Problems. Journal of Community Development Society, 21, 70 - 82.
Suicide Prevention Training Programs (1998). Saving Lives: Community Development for Aboriginal People. Calgary, Alberta: Royal Canadian Mounted Police/ Community Suicide Prevention Program, Aboriginal Policing Branch.