What Can Schools Do? -- Curriculum
What exactly does the term curriculum mean? The definition of curriculum is determinate on context. There are various definitions to represent a spectrum of viewpoints: curriculum is permanent subjects; curriculum is subjects that are useful for society; curriculum is all planned learning; curriculum is all experiences under the school; or, curriculum is all experiences in the course of living (Marsh & Willis, 1999). For the purposes of this section, the working definition of curriculum is taken from Marsh & Willis (1999): curriculum is "an interrelated set of plans and experiences that a student undertakes under the guidance of the school" (p. 11). The phrase "under the guidance of the school" is useful to show the large supportive web of people who are concerned with education.
Harris (1992) believes that a purpose for public education must be created. Nunavut educators must consider the priorities of schools and the role that schools and the curriculum have in educating Inuit students. In the past, youth were taught to survive in an adult world and the curriculum included traditional knowledge. Youth today are facing a life totally different from their parents and schools are expected to meet modern needs while merging with traditional educational goals. It is difficult to meet the needs of the student when the system gets overloaded with the layering on of curriculum by legislators (Harris,1992). This pressure to meet the needs of the legislated curriculum has a tendency to force teachers to focus on completing the material at the expense of other meaningful learning, like those of traditional knowledge. Teachers are limited because they are under pressure to teach exclusively what is on the examination.
Recently, many provinces have adopted standardised testing. What is bothersome is that many students are not able to learn from this type of paper-pencil test results. Teachers are not trained to know how to use the data generated from national tests to improve teaching (Harris, 1992). Many of the tests are not relevant to students northern Native experiences and therefore may be bias against them. Many Inuit students learn best with hands-on activities as were common in traditional educational practices. Standardised exams are not a valid measure of their learning. Harris (1992) declares that administrators must place more confidence in the teachers judgment and not overlook the teacher who can probably tell the most.
Marsh & Willis (1999) explored the three focal points for curriculum decisions: 1) nature of the subject matter; 2) nature of society; 3) nature of the individual. The second focal point is one that may need to be investigated when discussing curriculum in Nunavut schools; nature of society refers to the curriculums usefulness in the external world (Marsh & Willis, 1999). Traditionally, Inuit children were taught skills intended to be useful in the world of survival; curriculum reflected the immediacy of the situation. Although, all children differ with respect to learning style and that learning style is not determined by race (Gardner, 1999) it is important to consider how isolated Inuit were from the rest of the world. Until about 50 years ago, their curriculum of education was determined by survival. Many of the Inuit ways of learning and teaching may still be a reflection of the critical skills they had to maintain and pass onto their children. In essence, it is a learn or die curriculum.
One could go further to extrapolate that perhaps there are so many dropouts in the North because they no longer have the same type of survival immediacy to learn the curriculum. All of their basic necessities are provided through government programs even though it is just very minimal social assistance. Thus, the drive to survive is not linked to school. To survive years ago, one would have to learn to hunt and feed your family; nowadays, you still need money to survive but it is not quite the same ever-present force that it once was. To get money, you must have a good job and to have a good job, you must be educated. It is time to rethink the curriculum to reflect societal demands. A change must be made in the mindset of the Inuit population so that they connect their success in the future with their educational success today.
In Pedagogy of the Oppressed , Freire (1997) uses the nature of society as the focal point around which decisions about curricula are made. In his book, Freire (1997) reflects the "broad range of cultural, political and economic characteristics of the social context in which it exists so that the student may both fit into the society in the future yet also be able to change that society" (Marsh & Willis, 1999, p. 48). The work of Freire (1997) stems from the social condition of an oppressed society and his hope was to engage students in action to liberate themselves from this oppression.
His curriculum reflects this broad range of the social context in Brazil at the time in 1970s. Freire (1997) describes his work with Latin American peasants who were oppressed by a militant government and depressed economic situation. The students in his program fit into the society and yet there is evidence that the students were feeling empowered by the program to create revolutionary changes in society. Like the Progressive Education movement in twentieth century, the main thrust of work by Freire (1997) was to improve the life of the individuals and thus society as a whole for Latin Americans.
Latin America is not the only place that deals with the turmoil of cultural, political and economic problems. Freire (1997) explains that oppressors use banking education to perpetuate negative myths and to strengthen oppression. We find this same situation occurring in United States and Canada most prominently in the assimilation of Native people into mainstream Euro-centric society. When we turn our attention to home, we can see how the goal of residential schooling of Native students worked to reinforce oppression. These people became objects and education radically stripped away their cultural identity and self-esteem. The side effects of residential schooling still linger from a generation ago. It was not until just recently that Inuit communities were financed to create community high schools. Dropout rates still remain high in these remote communities and illiteracy rates are high. All of these factors work to create what Freire (1997) would call an oppressed society needing Liberatory Education. Liberatory education is based on conscientization whereby the learner moves towards critical consciousness or the ability to interpret problems by keeping an open mind and analyze problems in depth through discussion with others (Heaney, 1989). The goal of liberatory education is to take oppressed, illiterate people and guide them into humanization, collective empowerment and literacy (Gadotti & Torres, No date). Link to Paulo Freire: Flowchart of Liberatory Education.
Today, there are many dropout prevention campaigns and advertisements in the media. Like Freire (1997) who links low literacy to social ills, the general public likes to believe that education is the first step to an improved society and nation. In order to do so, Freire (1997) states that we must not ignore the racism, sexism and exploitation in favour of the neutrality of technology (Heaney, 1984). Schools have slowly turned to focus on more multicultural issues and anti -racism programs to help with the turmoil found in society. Even so, Freire (1997) stresses that there is a need to change the traditional schooling system, which treats students as objects. The new pedagogy must use the dialogical method to facilitate the growth of humanization and empowerment.
However, as Marsh & Willis (1999) state, "what is useful at one time and under one set of circumstances may not be as useful as time passes or circumstances change" (p. 50) And it is in this light that most of the criticisms of Freire appear. Numerous Internet reviews devoted to Paulo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1997) are quite negative in nature. Although, for the most part, the criticisms focus on difficulty interpreting Freires writing style, those who are able to get through the text find it very hard to transfer his ideas into other situations. Gadotti & Torres (no date) question this transferability by stating: "As brilliant as they are, Freires theories were developed in a completely different social and political context"(p.1). Freire wrote in a time and place where the line between the oppressed and the oppressors was very clear; unfortunately, presently in North American this line is not quite as clear so the dichotomy between good and evil is not definite. For Freire (1997), people are either an oppressor or one of the oppressed and those who are oppressed must fight for liberation in order to become human (Heaney, 1984). Freire (1997) also dismisses any violence which occurs by the oppressor because he believes that the violence by oppressors is done out of love and thus is justified (Heaney, 1984). His dichotomy leaves no room for mediators or those neither oppressed nor oppressing others.
For Freire (1997), education is political and there is no other way around it (McClafferty, no date). Educational curriculum is used to create social change. He does not address what happens once change has occurred other than to say that new leaders must beware of falling into the patterns of an oppressor once again (Freire, 1997). Unfortunately, the pedagogy described in his book can be seen as having built-in limits for its usefulness if only used to political revolutionary change.
Despite many criticisms, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire,1997) has much to offer to educators. His ideas of dialogical method, problematization, praxis and decodification with generative themes aligns very well with many of todays theorists. He was an adult educator who was very committed to progressive politics and tried to transform education to meet this revolution. His work follows the same exploratory path as John Dewey and others and also gave impetus to the popular education movement (Schugurensky, No date). Freire (1997) stresses the importance of making curriculum relevant. He encourages students to make connections and reflect on these connections on a personal and social level. To learn in this way is very respected in many of todays current pedagogues. To dismiss Freire (1997) entirely would be a real waste of intellectual and educational thought. Many of the ideas in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1997) are important but perhaps the political context of the pedagogy is not directly applicable to our world today. Paulo Freire demonstrates his passion and brilliance as a theorist who forces his readers to critically reflect on their own teaching practices.
Forcing educators to consider their teaching practices and the role that curriculum plays is exactly what was done at Netsilik School. The teachers in the Junior High and Senior High division met to explore their role in the implementation of the Career and Program Plan (CPP). It is hoped that the following case study illustrates the importance of making curricula, like CPP, more advantageous for Inuit students.
One way to make curricula more advantageous for students is an improvement in the implementation of the Career and Program Plan (CPP). Freire (1997) would likely approve of CPP implementation as the curriculum intends to provide students with skills and abilities to survive in society. Although there are many reasons why students decide to leave school, it is not outrageous to believe that the choice to dropout could be influenced by the creation of appropriate Career and Program Plans for individual students. In the older grades, lack of incentive is often a factor in leaving school early. Career and Program Plans could help students see the goal of their work in school and thus encourage them to continue in their programs.
The CPP is mandated for use in Nunavut schools and it takes into account requirements for graduation, career in the work world and admission to post secondary institutions (Storey, 1997). It is a plan that is created by the student and parents "with the assistance of the school, career development officers, partners in the community and mentors for the student prior to entrance into Grade 10" (Storey, 1997, p. 3). It is a plan that is continually revised throughout high school.
Unfortunately, CPP implementation is not working up to its curricular potential. Firstly, CPP should be a process that starts in grade nine and continues through to graduation; the long-term plan is to involve the student, parents, teachers, and the principal. The CPP is to be initiated in grade nine with the student participating in a half day workshop to introduce the concept of career to students and to make the connection between secondary school education and post-secondary training and careers; another expectation is that this workshop will "sell the importance of High School to the students [sic] future" (Storey, 1997, p. 12). It may be important to note that although the CPP is mandated for the Kitikmeot region, the implementation guide by Storey (1996) is not. However, this guide was presented to the Nunavut High School Project (April 1996) and accepted by the three regions as a process to fulfill implementation of the CPP for Nunavut students.
A Parent Night is to follow which will share information with parents about the variety of choices and options and will encourage parents to be involved in the CPP process. Next, an individual meeting with the student and parent to encourage the student to dream of their future and learn more about themselves (Storey, 1997). Ongoing activities allow the student to gain experience and information about various post-secondary options. This grade nine year is very important in the initial stages of the planning; items to complete include: a written form (listing strengths/difficulties/interests, and possible options/directions), a long term tentative course mapping plan, an interest inventory, and other such forms). Beyond grade nine, the CPP is to be reviewed every report period and course selections are to be made as to follow the plan. Teachers are to stress career options in a variety of subjects and offer opportunities for job shadowing and work experience whenever possible (Storey, 1997).
It is expected that through this process teachers are knowledgeable about the qualification for programs and courses. Teachers are to communicate well with parents and students through CPP process and to be culturally sensitive to the relatively newness of careers options for Inuit students. Teachers are also expected to be able to access appropriate material for students and guide the process throughout the high school years.
What is happening is slightly different and, according to the staff at Netsilik School, is creating difficulties for potential graduates. For the most part, any formal lessons and activities on career choices are considered by the students as dream planning so the resulting goals are often unrealistic or irrelevant; in reality, most students have an enormous difficulty envisioning themselves going out of the community for any substantial length of time so they often treat career planning as a fictional scenario. Although the majority of Inuit parents wish to participate in this process for their childrens future, it is difficult for them to address the issues involved. For example, many of the families now in Taloyoak have only recently abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and moved into town; they have strong family ties and the idea of their children leaving home for any extended period of time may be a horrifying idea.
For teachers, the CPP is often considered an add on to the already packed curriculum; CPP is not an accredited course so it is not provided the necessary amount of time within the school year to falafel all the requirements of the program. The CPP is not reviewed formally each reporting period primarily due to time and interest by students. Teachers have not been given formal inservicing on the CPP process and few teachers have career counselling training. There is no funding that is allotted specifically for this process. Teachers feel they are doing their best in providing career information to students within their classes given the resources that are available (Internet, course catalogues, personal experience) and the logistics of fitting career topics into already full course curriculums. Unfortunately, teachers feel that the process is quite haphazard in implementation and the teacher expectations are too great when compared to their knowledge and ability to access information.
The top key issues were identified by the five members of the Junior High/Senior High teaching staff during a force field analysis and constraint analysis brainstorming session. These key issues were: student ability in realistic goal setting; parent attitudes to post secondary careers; and, teacher time and training. The constraining forces are grouped thematically into the categories of: Time, Resources (personnel, information, financial), and Socio-Psychological. As was done with the enabling forces, each of the constraining forces are evaluated according to the level of impact on the goal: major, medium or minor.
Time, or rather a lack thereof, is one issue that kept arising during the force field analysis brainstorming meeting. The group members felt that there is a lack of time to complete the CPP process effectively and thoroughly. The current scheduling does not allow class time for the CPP to be introduced and discussed directly; due to already packed curriculum courses, time is hard to find within other subject areas. The CPP program recommends some time for one-on-one, student-teacher interaction and teachers have no time within their school day to facilitate such a meeting. Currently, any career counselling that is in place is done after school hours and in personal time. Teachers also feel that there is a lack of time for collaborative planning and discussion with other teachers about the CPP process concerning individual student goals.
Also, the teachers who are working with the Junior / Senior High students have never had the opportunity nor the time to receive appropriate instruction for counselling students on career options. There is a high rate of teacher turnover at the school so time for training in CPP is required yearly. These constraining forces overlap into the Resource category because they deal with financial and information barriers. Nevertheless, time is a major constraining force and time issues have a major negative impact on the success of the CPP project. This conclusion was agreed upon unanimously by those who participated in the force field analysis brainstorming meeting.
The second thematic category under constraining forces is Resources including information, personnel, and financial concerns. Under Information, falls the concern with the inability to get hard copies of college and university calendars free of cost; since most post-secondary institutions have Internet access, they no longer send paper versions of their catalogues to the schools. This makes it difficult for students to take the information home to their family for discussion. Catalogue information that is currently in the school is quite out of date. These constraining forces are considered to have a minor impact on the success of the project; since Netsilik School gained access to the Internet, these information issues have less of an impact then they would have had only two years ago.
Also, the present template used to record CPP information is a computer database which is not user-friendly. It is difficult to use when students are required to review their individual progress each reporting period. Again, this is considered to have a minor impact on the project because a newer template could be designed. Also it may be possible to gain access to a better information recording device from another source (another school, Internet etc).
Finally, gaining course-offering information from Nunavut Arctic College is a constraining force because this institution has a lack of long-term vision. It is very hard for students to plan ahead. Nunavut Arctic College has a variety of campus locations across the North and students who are uncomfortable leaving the North will often choose to attend Nunavut Arctic College over going to other schools mainly because they will be able to live at home or with relatives. Unfortunately, Nunavut Arctic College has difficulties setting up their course offerings due to inconsistent funding by sponsors. Thus students do not know what programs the college will deliver until a month before the course is to begin. The brainstorming group felt that this force has a major negative impact on the goal of the project when considering the number of students who are unwilling to travel outside the community for educational opportunities. However, due to the scope of this constraint removal process, it is difficult to make the required changes within this external institution.
Personnel constraining forces include the lack of a career counsellor or other staff members who have appropriate training to guide students in the CPP process. This is considered as having a major impact on the success of the project because of the key role that the teacher plays in the implementation of the CPP as described by Storey (1997). Teachers are responsible for facilitating the Parent Night, directing career-related experiences, interacting with students to find their areas of expertise and researching options for post-secondary education.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of willingness by some community people to participate in programs like job shadowing which work to provide students with an opportunity to see elements of the work world. Students have limited access to on-the-job training, part-time or summer employment positions in Taloyoak. Students do not gain a sense of the work world. These forces have a minor impact on the success of the CPP project.
As mentioned earlier as an enabling force, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) presents an annual career show and workshops for students. Unfortunately, these opportunities can also be considered as constraining forces because they present only a few possibilities for career choice, in a limited time, without the appropriate knowledge of the student background nor personal interests. These workshops are short one to two-day programs, which do not foster long term planning. The degree of impact on the success of the CPP project is minor because there is evidence of a level of support by ECE for the CPP project despite the obvious improvements that are needed.
Financially, the cost of bringing career people to speak to students in Taloyoak is very high: without aid from outside agencies, like ECE, students would have almost no access to career people from outside the community. Money issues are hard to categorise because most of the information resources can now be accessed through the World Wide Web but computers and computer training for teachers can be costly. Training of any kind requires some sort of financial aid; although there are pockets of money for teacher education (like professional development funds and allotted inservice days), arranging for access requires planning and knowledge of the system. Financial issues are considered as having a negative minor impact on the CPP project.
Finally, the issue of parental support overlaps the two categories of personnel and socio-psychological constraints. Unfortunately, there is a lack of parental involvement and guidance in the decision making process: parents who refuse to take part in the CPP process can not be considered a positive resource. This situation may be the result of a lack of understanding about the current job situation for youth or it may be that some Inuit parents feel uncomfortable in encouraging their children to seek education and employment opportunities outside of the community. This poses a medium negative impact on the project.
As well as the lack of parental support, other socio-psychological forces are in effect. For example, when first asked to think of careers and interests, many students are unrealistic in their goal setting; lower performing students research high technology positions, or higher performing students choose to take lower level positions. There is a lack of student motivation to complete the CPP process because many students have an unrealistic view of their plan. Student motivation, unrealistic goal setting and a limited world view are considered to have a medium impact on the CPP project.
The most pressing priority is helping teachers improve the CPP process for students. Teachers need to be competent in delivering the expectations of the CPP curriculum. An instructional approach to fulfilling the CPP implementation need is suggested. Once teachers are trained to manage the expectations of CPP appropriately, students will be better able to realize their future goals and will be encouraged to remain in school to achieve them. A needs assessment plan, constraint analysis, outline of a three day instructional workshop for teachers, and evaluation plan are suggested to improve the effectiveness of the CPP curriculum for the benefit of students.
The Social Compass by Connor (1987) forces schools to consider relevance of curriculum to Inuit students. Connor (1987) refers to the materials that are in schools as resources. One questions whether the materials used in schools promote Inuit culture and language are relative to the experiences of the Inuit student. Without a doubt, this aspect is a concern for northern educators. Over the last seven years a curriculum resource and framework, called Inuuqatigiit (NWT, 1996) has been created on which all other curriculums are to be placed. This document is the Inuit perspective on education and it is to be use as the foundation for all teaching done within the school from kindergarten to grade twelve.
Even though teachers strive to use as much Inuit based material as possible, there is still a problem with language and translation. So much of the material is in English and has to be taught by English speaking teachers. Unfortunately this does not send a good message to Inuit students or parents about the value of Inuit language and culture. The most recent discussion of an Inuit curriculum uses Inuit traditional knowledge as a base.
This Inuit curriculum is called Inuktitut Qauyimayutuqangit (IQ) which is translated to mean "that which has long been know to the Inuit." The term IQ encompasses all aspects of traditional Inuit culture including values, world-view, language, social organization, knowledge, life skill perceptions and expectations (Nunavut Department of Education, 1999). Elders across Nunavut believe that IQ is the tradition of passing Inuit knowledge, values and teaching to younger generations; the knowledge of all areas of life; a system of laws, values and consultations before making important decision that affect the community (Nunavut Department of Education, 1999). IQ has implications for education in that all curricula must be grounded in Inuit culture, language, heritage and traditions. Along with other implications, IQ recommends: a differentiation of staffing to include elders, community leaders and parents; a flexible school year calendar with consideration given to seasonal and community school plans; and, ongoing staff development in IQ (Nunavut Department of Education, 1999). Elders at an IQ workshop believe that IQ is important because:
Confirming the value of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit will restore Inuit pride and increase individual self-esteem. By increasing young Inuit self-esteem, some of todays social problems such as substance abuse and even suicide will be eliminated. (Nunavut Department of Education, 1999)
It is possible to believe that IQ could also have an effect on the rate of dropout as well as substance abuse and suicide. Of course, IQ is just in the beginning stages of development but over the next ten years, the department of education for Nunavut "will begin the rewriting of the K-12 school curriculum to emphasize cultural relevance and academic excellence" (Nunavut Department of Education, 1999). Time will tell if IQ will make a difference to the dropout rates of Inuit students. Hopefully, this change will encourage more Inuit students to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them for a better Nunavut.
Summary: link to Factors Leading to Dropout for Inuit Students
It is hoped that by exploring the implications of curriculum on Inuit, improvements in the rate of dropout can be made. Now that creation of the new territory of Nunavut has occurred, more effort can be made to reevaluate the purpose and role in purpose of education specifically for Inuit students. As Freire (1992) models, the curriculum must be relevant to the learner; a southerner based curriculum may not fit the needs of Inuit students and this becomes a negative force for dropout. Cultural discrepancy is thus eliminated when the curriculum is relevant to Inuit students. Improvement of the CPP program will help students monitor their learning and see a goal for their educational effort. In the past, students worked hard on their skills in order to survive; this mindset must be transferred to the schools of today so that students can see how education helps them to survive in the modern world. Improving the CCP program will encourage students to stay in school because they will see the importance of education for their survival. Changes in the curriculum can help improve the dropout situation for Inuit students.
Article Review: Harris, Phillip. (1992). Restructuring for learning.
Assignment: Flowchart of Liberatory Education (Freire)
Assignment: Instructional Design Solution and Evaluation Plan: Career and Program Plan Instructional Workshop at Netsilik School, Taloyoak Assignment: An Intervention Proposal for the Reduction of Inuit Dropout in Taloyoak
Assignment: Analysing Inuit Dropout as an Issue in the North