Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut November 28, 2012 - 11:28 am

GN deputy minister: We don’t do “social promotion”

"Continuous progress requires careful student assessment"


I am writing in response to the article in from November 26, 2012 titled, “Nunavut deputy minister alarmed at low attendance rates.”

I appreciate the interest in education that Nunatsiaq News demonstrates by continuing to cover this important aspect of life in Nunavut.

Because education is so important, it is essential that Nunavummiut understand the different aspects of the work the Department of Education is doing to implement the Education Act.

One of the topics discussed in the article, as well as recently in the legislature, is the difference between social promotion, which the Department of Education does not support, and continuous progress, the approach to student placement that the department does support.

Social promotion allows students to continue from year to year, regardless of what they have learned or have not learned. It allows students who do not regularly attend to be moved on to the next grade and can result in students with weak skills at upper levels of schooling.

The opposite to social promotion is failing students and forcing them to repeat all the content and work of a grade level, even when there may be only one subject area in which they are weak. This can result in older students being placed in classes with much younger students.

The department does not support this method of education and last year issued a Student Placement Directive to all principals in the territory.

However, we understand that a transition is occurring and soon we will be able to better track attendance and progress through the new Student Information System that is currently being piloted in six communities. We know social promotion is not a successful method of education as it has been proven that it does not promote confidence or positive self-identity in students.

Continuous progress requires that the school team – teachers, parents, principals, school community counselors and student support teachers work together to make decisions about the placement of each student.

Continuous progress also requires that teachers thoroughly evaluate each student, particularly for major subject areas such as reading and math, and keep detailed records of that achievement, as well as samples of work that demonstrate learning progress.

When they move to the next grade level the new teacher receives that specific information and teaches that child from the point they left off the previous year. This is also called differentiated instruction, which is being encouraged across all North American school jurisdictions.

Continuous progress requires careful student assessment. The Department of Education implements student assessment in every teaching unit it develops for schools. We are working on K-6 student-parent-teacher conferences in which everyone careful examines student work to identify areas of progress and clarify areas of focus for the next reporting period. We are also working on assessments for math and literacy that will help identify student strengths and areas of need.

The article also highlights the importance of attendance. If students are not in school consistently, they will likely not be learning the key reading and math skills they require to be successful in life.

These gaps cause difficulties for all students and teachers. The department and parents are both responsible for encouraging attendance.

The role of the department is to create quality programs and learning that are founded on Inuit culture as requested by Nunavummiut and the law, but also interesting and relevant to life in Nunavut, Canada and the world today.

On the other hand, graduates tell us that the most important factor in their success in school was the support and encouragement of their parents and families. The important role of parents in helping students attend regularly and work to the best of their ability cannot be emphasized enough.

Parents, communities, schools and government all have important roles to play in student success. We all need to have high expectations for our students, and encourage and support them to do their very best.

If students attend and work hard, they will achieve more in school and be better prepared for whatever they chose to do when they graduate.

Kathy Okpik
Deputy Minister
Department of Education

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