What Can Schools Do?

"It became apparent in the 1970’s that Inuit children were not doing well in the formal education system. Most students who began school in kindergarten dropped out before they finished junior high school. Colbourne states that ‘the outcomes of schooling in terms of extremely high dropout rate and cultural erosion constituted a remarkable phenomenon in a system designed to prepare individuals for a modern northern lifestyle." (Tompkins, 1998, p. 27)

Schools can do a lot to encourage youth to stay in school. Many people see the school as an institution that is unchanging and stuck in traditional structures. It is important to remember that there are various factors to dropout, many of which are rooted in the school experience. These complex social issues leave teachers and administrators wondering if it is within the power of the school to reduce dropout. An investigation of the internal factors of schools in the prevention of dropout should begin.

The Inuit have been faced with the standard system of education which is found in almost every school throughout the western world. It is a system that has remained relatively unchanged since the 1800’s. It is time to reconsider how educational services are provided to Inuit students. Positive changes can be made once we consider the influence of leaders and the elements of the school in the discussion of Inuit dropout.

This discussion is facilitated by exploring issues as they relate to Netsilik School in Taloyoak. As a teacher and vice principal at this school, I have experienced a great deal in my eight year period. Although this section of the paper had direct connections with the situation in Taloyoak, it is hoped that the suggestions and ideas expressed can be transferred to other Inuit schools in Nunavut. Recommendations cited intend to be useful for all Inuit students attending school.

This section looks at three areas that can be addressed in an effort to significantly improve the dropout phenomena. They are:

* school leaders

* teachers

* curriculum