What should be done? Recommendations
The following is a list of twenty-two recommendations, which can work to reduce dropout in Inuit communities across the Canadian North. The recommendations are grouped into six main areas of development: Leaders and Teachers; Career and Program Plans; Restructuring of Schools; Community Development; Generate Alternate Programs; and Curriculum. A radical vision of Inuit education for the future follows this list of recommendations.
More research needs to be done in order to understand the situation for Inuit youth completely. Little has been written about the topic with respect to the Inuit population of the Canadian north. This portfolio investigation is just one step to narrowing the gap of understanding the phenomena of Inuit dropout. Quantitative and qualitative research is required so that it can be used to initiate a plan to reduce the rate of dropout in Inuit communities.
Leaders and teachers must work to build relationships with students and the community. Staff morale needs to be high in order to encourage positive school experiences. Leaders must work to clarify misconceptions of staff with the community. Leaders must remember to celebrate the symbolic side of school. Schools must be viewed as a community not an institution.
Teachers who are committed to education in the north are valuable in the fight to reduce dropout. High rates of teacher turnover greatly impact the image of the school and the positive development of school climate and culture. Students and parents need to feel connected to the school and long term commitment of teachers is one way to foster a sense of family in the school and community.
Teachers can effectively decrease the risk factors involved in learning and increase students level of academic achievement by creating practices and structures in the classroom more conducive to success. Teachers of Inuit students should examine how their current teaching strategies and classroom structures are affecting dropout rates. Teachers need to be willing to work together to solve these difficult problems.
Teachers must be encouraged to use a variety of instructional approaches, which will foster student learning and success in school. Teachers must learn how to understand their students well and individualise student learning.
At this point, there is still a need for southern teachers to take teaching positions in the north. Non-Native teachers need to learn as much as possible about the Inuit culture so that they can deliver programs that are relevant and appropriate for their Inuit students. Non-Native teachers need to work against cultural discontinuity and cultural insensitivity. Nonnative teachers need to understand how to bridge the differences in communication between cultural gaps. Finally, Nunavut has a vision for an Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) school, which embraces all aspects of traditional Inuit culture. Nonnative teachers must have the opportunity to learn how they can work within the planned vision to create IQ schools.
The utopian Inuit school includes Inuit teachers in all grades using Inuktitut as the working language of the school. Until more Inuit enter teacher-training programs, schools will continue to be staffed using resources outside of the north. Teaching is a challenging job and Inuit teachers need continuous support and learning throughout their career so that they can facilitate the best education possible for Inuit youth. Mentoring, cognitive coaching, linguistic coaching, shared dialogue and other such initiatives give Inuit teachers and Nonnative teachers the opportunity to support one another throughout their career.
Students need to see their education is a way to accomplish future goals whether it be in the work force or through post-secondary education and training. CPP is one way for students to gain ownership of their education and plan their future. The process encourages parental involvement and support for educational endeavours. CPP gives an opportunity for students to learn about a variety of careers. It is not unrealistic to believe that more successful implementation of CPP can help encourage students to stay in school.
Teachers need to have effective training in order to deliver successful CPP programs for students. Teachers must have time in their curriculum packed day to meet the expectations of the CPP program: planning, organize and counsel students. Teachers must be provided with resources and knowledge concerning the most effective ways to bring CPP into the school. They need to understand career counselling and have access to current information. A three-day CPP implementation workshop is recommended to teachers in the Junior High and Senior High divisions. They need ongoing support in their delivery of CPP programs.
In isolated, northern communities, many students do not have the opportunity to travel outside of their region. Students need the opportunity to see how other cultures live in the larger world. They need to see how their culture fits with the rest of society. Exchange trips and other student travel programs are very education as they allow students to visualise themselves outside of their home communities. Many post-secondary opportunities are found out of the community and students must be willing to move away from home for periods of time in order to get education and training. Student exchanges are able to help students understand the world as a whole.
family grouping - multiage/multilevel to reflect natural family orientations amongst Inuit
The traditional classroom groups students according to age. Family grouping or multiage/multilevel classrooms are much more relevant to the natural family orientations of traditional Inuit families. Keeping in mind that the Inuit have just recently moved into settlement, the natural survival team was made of up a variety of ages and abilities. All members have a role and all ages were needed for survival. Family grouping allows for older students to help and tutor younger students. Teaching others is a very good way to retain and practice needed skills and abilities. Younger students see how their present skills can develop into more complicated operations.
It is unrealistic to expect all children to progress at the same rate. Schools need to restructure their delivery of programs to offer a variety of time/progress options. There have been many such modifications in the north dealing with this issue: senior high students given two year to complete one grade, the use of modules which work to break up large courses into workable sections, part-time and correspondence courses, summer courses etc. Schools have to find ways to individualise learning so that all students have a way to succeed.
The first few months of school is generally a time when teachers feeling out their students and students are feeling out their teachers. Each party is trying to determine appropriate expectations. If teachers have the same group of students over a period of years, both parties benefit because they know what is expected and what is possible. Teachers can make learning more relevant by matching topics and activities to student interest. Students have a chance to build trust and make personal connections with teachers. A continuum approach allows teachers to build and develop student skills over a long period of time. It also allows family grouping to be implemented.
One of the goals of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) in schools is to rewrite curriculum to reflect Inuit values and beliefs. Currently in use is an Inuit perspective of curriculum called Inuuqatigiit. This document provides a wealth of information on Inuit beliefs, values and knowledge dealing with relationships with the land, the animals, and the people. At this point the document is not a working curriculum and it is used primarily as a resource. Teachers spent a lot of time trying to adapt Inuuqatigiit curriculum, while at the same time wanting desperately to honour the spirit of it. A major problem is that Inuuqatigiit focuses on the material culture, in factual or direct skills, and does not look at the cognitive (ways of thinking) and social (ways of interacting) elements of a culture. Little time is spent considering and discussing beyond the material or content of the Inuit culture; teachers often overlook exploration beyond facts when they read and develop cultural units or themes based on Inuuqatigiit. Inuuqatigiit needs to be revised so that it can be a usable curriculum.
Inuktitut needs to be spoken in the general classroom. It needs be valued by education in order for Inuit students to value their culture and have cultural self-esteem. One way to increase success in Inuktitut language is to have Inuktitut speakers as teacher assistants in the classroom. Until more Inuit become teachers themselves, having Inuit teacher assistants is one way to increase the profile of Inuktitut and Inuit culture in the classroom. This would help to reduce dropout by eliminating the element of cultural discontinuity. Students would be working in a non-threatening environment where their culture is respected. Southern teachers would have a resource person to help them program courses that are relevant to their students.
Schools have to be restructured to honour the fact that they are learning centres. All those who are involved in the school need to participate in learning. Students need to see that their learning does not end at the end of high school. A learning community role models learning for students. All school employees and any interested parents should be encouraged to attend learning activities and professional development sessions. Students who see life-long learning modelled are more likely to consider how their learning should continue through life.
Community support for education is important in any culture. When is comes to finding solutions to serious problems, like student dropout, community members need to be involved and on board. One way is to increase the awareness of the dropout problem with the community and work to develop a community action program with all stakeholders (parents, teachers, students, principals, community leaders, elders, board members, post-secondary institutions, etc.) An Intervention Proposal is provided that uses Taloyoak as an example. This intervention proposal uses a four-step program design outlined by Connor (1997) and incorporates ideas from the Community Development Wheel of SPTP (1998). A program for the community should be from the community so an effort has been made to include all the many stakeholders who are impacted by student dropout.
Getting the community involved in solutions for the dropout problem will provide Inuit students with options to further their education
In the past, it was very common for students to quit school at the age of sixteen because at that point students had to travel away from the home community to complete their high school education. Unfortunately, some students still see the age of sixteen as a time when they should quit school and in some families it is acceptable to do so. This perception needs to be challenged and the community must come to the realisation that learning does not end at the age of sixteen. Using on-the-land learning as an analogy, the attainment of master hunter or master fisherman takes years; therefore Inuit must be willing to spend the time it takes to be well educated to take on the positions needed in the modern world.
For some students, graduating from grade 12 is not feasible. However, they should not consider dropping out. Arctic College is one institution that offers many entry-level programs that do not require a high school diploma. Schools need to make more links with institutions like Nunavut Arctic College so that students can plan to move into vocational and apprenticeship programs. Students from the 16 L program strand could benefit greatly by the creation of such links. Students in these lower level programs are often at-risk of dropping out of school. Streaming them into suitable programs is one way to keep them in school long enough to find a place where their learning can flourish.
As it stands now, students enrolled in 16/26/36 Level programs do not get a diploma at the end of their three years in high school. Their credits do contribute to a graduating diploma even though they might have been successful in their courses. Most people need to know that their effort leads to a goal; a Leaving Certificate is one way that 16 Level students can feel success. Such a certificate could be combined with an employment portfolio listing the students skills and abilities, courses and school interests. Hopefully, a Leaving Certificate would encourage lower level learners to continue in their educational endeavours.
Schools need to create possibilities for gaining credits for completion of alternative high school courses like on the land training, survival training, cultural inclusion. Schools have to branch out of their traditional focus in order to retain students whose interests are stronger elsewhere. More opportunities need to be given for students to gain credits for alternative programming. For example, a diploma could be earned for students who have become masters of on-the-land skills and masters of Inuktitut language.
There are three main focal points for curriculum decisions: the nature of subject matter, the nature of society, the nature of the individual (Marsh and Willis, 1999). Inuit students need an education that is a balance of these three focal points. Student need an education system that gives them a solid foundation of the subject matter while being relevant to the needs of their society and culture, at the same time allowing them the opportunity to develop according to their individual requirements. A balance must be sought; in that way, schools will be better able to meet the demands of a diverse student population.
Currently high schools are using the Alberta curriculum as its basis for programs. The relevance of curriculum is an issue whenever one uses curriculum from outside of a cultural boundary. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit identifies this need. A future goal for Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is to rewrite curriculum so that it reflects Inuit values, beliefs and knowledge. It is hope that more relevant material being taught in schools will impress upon students the need to stay in school.
(Thanks to Dr. Tom Gougeon at the University of Calgary for this inspiring vision of a school that really promotes learning that is relevant and manful for Inuit students - one that works to decrease the possibility of dropout.)
Picture a school, not as a set of classes or rooms in a building with teachers waiting for students to arrive at a given time, but as a collective where the extended family structures and supports that learning. Teachers, like family counsellors, respond to the learning needs of the family members, on call as needs exist. Learning is supported by the home and takes place within the realm of the family, either in the home or on-the-land.
Elementary level students are provided with resources to support home learning of subjects like reading, writing, arithmetic, history of the community, the family and the links to the world view. All learning connected back to daily life and experiences in the life of the family, not separated by the walls of an institution. All members of the family involved in the learning experience either as learners or as teachers. Secondary level learners are supported by resources to help adults learn as needed in the community with options and resources for those who wish to go beyond the north and into the rest of Canada for employment or education.
By giving the task of teaching and learning back to the family, the option of dropping out disappears. Focusing on the community and recognizing work done with appropriate rewards may be the key to successful schooling. This is an utopian vision of an educational system and is reminiscent of traditional learning situations. One would argue that it is impossible to set up such a collective; there are so many issues to consider. Even so, it is food for thought.