Since 2013, no diplomas for Nunavik high school grads
“Education is supposed to enable us"
Nunavik parents say they’re surprised and disappointed to find out Kativik School Board graduates have not been receiving secondary school diplomas since 2013.
That’s because Nunavik’s secondary four-level math and science curriculum does not meet Quebec’s Department of Education requirements—and hasn’t for some time.
Instead, Nunavik students who complete their Secondary 5 studies have been receiving an Attestation of Equivalence of Secondary Studies, or AESS, issued by Quebec.
The issue has remained relatively quiet until recently when some parents took their concerns to the March meeting of the KSB’s council of commissioners.
Then, last week, a Parti Québécois MNA raised it in a parliamentary committee on education at Quebec’s National Assembly where an exchange with Quebec’s education minister, Sébastien Proulx, revealed even the minister wasn’t aware that attestation certificates were being handed out to Nunavik graduates instead of diplomas.
The KSB has responded to the controversy with a letter sent out to parents and posted to its website last week.
“We wish to acknowledge that there has been a lack of clear communication on the part of the school board in relation to the AESS,” said the KSB’s director general, Annie Popert, in an open letter to parents, issued April 28.
“On behalf of the school board, we would like to extend our sincere apologies for any confusion or worries parents may have experienced as a result of this lack of communication. We assure you that the school board’s top priority is to ensure the success and well-being of all Nunavik students.”
The issue goes back to 2000, when Quebec introduced new math and science curricula province-wide.
At the time, the KSB was given a temporary exemption to give the board time to adapt its own programs. In 2007, the KSB was given another five-year extension to meet those requirements; when it still hadn’t upgraded its curriculum by 2013, most of the region’s graduates stopped receiving diplomas.
The school board said it was unable to meet that deadline due to a high turnover of staff and “recruitment challenges related to our specific cultural, multilingual and geographical context.”
That leaves graduates unable to apply for most post-secondary programs, apart from two Montreal area CEGEPs which have post-secondary agreements in place with the KSB.
“It’s unacceptable and it’s really limiting what we can do,” said Alicia Aragutak, president of the Qarjuit Youth Council. “Education is supposed to enable us—it should bring us to the next level.”
As part of consultations Qarjuit held with Nunavimmiut youth last year, Aragutak said educational success was flagged as a major priority.
But too often, Aragutak said, there seems to be a divide between offering a standardized education that allows students to thrive in southern institutions and receiving a culturally relevant education designed by and for Inuit.
“It shouldn’t be one or the other,” she said.
What’s difficult for many Nunavimmiut to understand is why the school board never made any announcement to inform students and their parents about the change in 2013.
Johnny Kasudluak, a former KSB commissioner who served as its council president from 2011 to 2014, said the issue of attestation equivalence certificates was raised once at an executive council meeting, but it was never understood to be a board-wide issue.
“We did talk about attestation, and we were told by one of the administrators that it was an equivalent,” he said. “We were told that the diploma was still given to students who completed all their courses for it.”
The current council said concerned parents came to them earlier this year for more information on attestation and what it meant, which prompted the KSB’s open letter and information sheet.
The KSB also said it sent letters to all the region’s school principals indicating that graduates do have the option to register for and take year-end standardized tests in Secondary 4-level math and science, in order to earn their diplomas.
Now, the KSB said its science program is in the process of being formally evaluated for accreditation by Quebec, while a department-level math program will soon be developed.
Last fall, the board said it also submitted a proposal to Quebec’s education department to create a primary and secondary-level Inuit-centred pathway through which the KSB could streamline Inuit culture, language and identity into its first- and second-language curriculum.
“Discussions around this proposal are ongoing,” the KSB said.
For his part, Quebec’s education minister Sébastien Proulx told the legislative committee April 28 that the region “can count on [his] collaboration to ensure all students who finish their secondary students in Nunavik can receive a diploma.”