Editorial omitted holes in education
Your editorial on the growing number of gaps in Nunavut’s social safety net (February 17, 2006) overlooked perhaps the most important gap of all — the education gap.
Every year Nunavut loses hundreds of young people from our school system long before graduation. They leave without the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in a territory rich in opportunities.
Many paths to Nunavut’s success lead back to the education system. Our government’s success in achieving a representative workforce and functional government is directly related to having educated young Nunavummiut available for jobs that we have long relied on southern Canadians to fill. Our economic goals, be it to develop mines, fish our offshore resources, or develop made-in-Nunavut trades people, are all reliant on a workforce with a high school education. The usefulness of Nunavut’s boldest new economic investment — broadband — assumes a certain level of literacy necessary to make the most of the information technology now available in all our communities.
When the performance of our public education system is measured by graduation rates, Nunavut lags far behind even our sister Territories. And since 1999, the growth in the number of graduates in Nunavut has in fact slowed, when measured against the number of young people in our school system. We simply cannot continue to quietly accept graduation rates that leave 75 per cent of our students to fall through the social safety net.
We heard last week about the Government of Nunavut’s renewed commitment to their priority hiring policy where a target of 50 per cent Inuit employment is to be achieved by 2008. How great it would be if we could hear a comparable target for increasing graduation rates by 2008.
While it is true that there are many competing priorities for public funds in Nunavut, there must be recognition that some investments impact the success of all others. Closing the education gap by increasing the number of students who graduate from our schools will require more than a status quo budget. Closing the education gap will require accelerated spending in services that support our struggling students; it will require an overhaul to our approach to a high school education; it will require an accelerated investment in making our curriculum relevant to our young people; and it will require a greater investment in recruiting and retaining made-in-Nunavut teachers.
Our schools should be about hope. Our schools should educate our young citizens and graduate them so they can transform our communities. Closing the education gap must surely be one of our most urgent priorities.
Christa Kunuk, chair
Iqaluit District Education Authority
Note: In December 2005 the IDEA released a research report on Nunavut’s Education Gap. A copy of the report can be obtained at the IDEA office or on the IDEA website at www.iqaluitdea.net.