Northern post-secondary education task force launches online survey

‘This great work will help improve education opportunities in Canada’s North and Arctic,’ says minister Dan Vandal

Nunavut Arctic College has partnered with Memorial University to offer a social work degree program in the territory this fall. (File photo/NAC)

By Nunatsiaq News

A team of educators, leaders and students who will recommend improvements to post-secondary education in the North wants to hear directly from northerners.

The 13-member task force includes Rebecca Mearns, acting president of Nunavut Arctic College, Peesee Pitsiulak, dean of Nunavut Arctic College’s Nunatta campus, and James Takkiruq, a law student. They started their work last November.

Last week, they launched a website and Facebook page to kick start their public engagement outreach.

The website gives people the opportunity to tell their stories in a variety of ways.

They can fill out a survey, upload video, audio or documents, or register to take part in an online discussion.

There is also a space for representatives of southern educational institutions to contribute their input.

“This great work will help improve education opportunities in Canada’s North and Arctic,” said Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal on social media.

The results of the survey will be recorded in the final report with recommendations on how to improve education opportunities and outcomes in the North.

A first draft of recommendations is expected to be completed in winter 2021.

The federal government has proposed $40 million over five years to support options for post-secondary education in the North, including $1 million to establish this task force to study post-secondary education in the Arctic and North.

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(45) Comments:

  1. Posted by Not rocket science on

    Why do we need to study things go death in Nunavut? This is not rocket science…

    First we have to recognize that education needs to be prioritized in the home (a hard thing to get parents on board who have been directly effected by residential school).

    Second we have to stop filling our schools with educators that are lazy or not good (there are lots of good ones in our schools). These teachers tend to skirt by doing the bare minimum and once they pass their 2 year probation you are stuck with them. Most of the time they are just a body filling a position and a lot of principals see it as the devil you know…

    Third we need access to post secondary education in Nunavut. We are sending kids away from their home and culture to places that are very different. Most go underprepared or behind their peers because of the education they received in Nunavut.

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    • Posted by Boring cliches and scapegoats on

      It just feels like blaming the teachers is such a cop-out. I also doubt it even comes close to touching on the real issues. “It’s not rocket science” though, yea… okay. Let us bask in the profundity of it all.

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    • Posted by What’s the problem? on

      Having kids leave the territory for post secondary education is arguably the best thing for them. Exposing them to the outside world is an education in and of itself, having them learn in a new and far more diverse environment, where standards are likely to be higher also sounds beneficial to me. Why portray this venturing out as some kind of injustice or travesty? I can only hope my child one days goes south for school.

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      • Posted by Seeing the problem on

        The problem lies in the narrow mindedness . No interaction to the world outside of ones own world. Yes no diversity. No exposure. Guardian of ones own culture at the expense of not even getting to know much else. Then struggling to live isolated from the world.

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        • Posted by Uvanga on

          You paint a stark existence of the north where we, as Inuit have resided for thousands of years. I truly hope you do not reside in Nunavut. We need solution minded people not people who don’t see a bright future for our children, nor want to help create a bright future for them.

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          • Posted by Say What? on

            Thousands of years? What we need is people have a better understanding of history in archaeology. We don’t need more misinformation spreaders.

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            • Posted by Uvanga on

              We have lived here all our lives like our ancestors.

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              • Posted by History Lesson on

                Uvanga, in reality Inuit have only occupied the lands of Nunavut in what is now the Canadian Arctic for about 1,000 years at the most, some would say less. Prior to that these lands were occupied by the Tuniit, who mysteriously disappeared when your ancestors arrived.

                It honestly does surprise me how few Inuit know this, while believing they have been here for thousands of years.

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          • Posted by Xenophobia on

            Xenophobia: The excessive fear, dislike, and even hostility toward of anything “foreign” or to anything and anybody from outside one’s own social group, nation, or country

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            • Posted by Uvanga on

              sounds like you are in the wrong part of Canada then.

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      • Posted by Adventure on

        The majority of post secondary students in the south leave home as well. Nunavummuit should see it as a right of passage. See a city. Take in culture. Meet new people. New ideas. Express your culture and background. From what I have seen, post secondary in territory is a waste of money and is lacklutre. The law school program is filled with GN employees who are approaching retirement, and the grads will be unlikely to meet basic standards when graduated. It has been a waste of GN dollars to make this happen, when it would have been easier and better to pay for students to head south to complete the program. There are daycare programs and supports available to help those with added baggage stopping them from moving temporarily for a short period of time. In territory programing for less than a few thousand people at most is not a good idea. Take a three hour flight to Ottawa and get a gold standard education.

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        • Posted by David on

          Good post, I completely agree with you.

          In my experience the small local colleges in the north (not just Nunavut) offer a very poor quality post secondary education. So poor, I believe these college programs should be mandated to list what percentage of grads are working in the field of study. I suspect, that number is extremely low as many/most grads are unemployable. Not the grads fault, but the poor quality program that doesn’t prepare them.

          The only really advantage these programs offer is, they are extremely easy to get in to and just as easy to pass. Which is likely their appeal and why some prefer them. They aren’t a long term answer though. You are correct, young adults would be much better off travelling to a good college than bringing a poor college to them.

          • Posted by Added comment on

            I will add that in Nunavut, many only enter college as a fast track for social housing. It is common for people to take 7 years to complete a 2 year diploma for the housing, never graduating, never doing anything. The college should be for trades, social workers and lpns, nothing more.

            • Posted by Northerner on

              I disagree. The problem in Canada and Nunavut, too, is a lack of funding. Sorry, but it is. Canada is a corporate welfare state. We give lots of money to corporate welfare clients and superrich people(see Washngton Post for 50 years worth of tax cuts for rich people and corporations has produced nothing of value for our western economies). And we invest little in post-secondary education and especially in Northern Canada. Every classical reformer of the last 200 years said economies that socialize the costs of living and costs of doing business will always be more competitive than those that don’t. The cost of living(education and housing) are far too high across Canada and especially in Northern Canada. Tiny socialist Norway has University of Tromsø with about 16000 students enrolled. That’s farther north than Igloolik. Our federal governments gutted tens of billions of dollars from core programs spending for education and healthcare in the 1990s and never replaced that funding to the same levels. 40 years worth of austerity hasn’t worked anywhere in the world where tried. Our ideologically-driven Liberal and Conservative governments have very little to show for their neoliberal ideology since the 1980s.

        • Posted by Northerner on

          There are two prices for a university degree in Canada: one for the sons and daughters of rich people, and the much higher price tag for those who don’t live in a university or college town which includes everyone in Northern Canada. 35 years worth of neoliberal austerity hasn’t worked anywhere in the world where tried. It’s time for Liberal/Tory governments in Ottawa to start investing in Canadians becausing giving money to rich people and corporate welfare bums isn’t working say economists.

  2. Posted by I offer no name on

    So this is interesting. So here is at least one hopefully useful suggestion: conduct a cross cultural comparative analysis of pan-arctic educational methods, outcomes, and pedagogical tools. Look, for example, to the most successful educational models from the circumpolar world (Finland is a great example) and organize learning exchanges with officials from those places looking for ways to adapt what might be best practices. Drop the parochial mindset that naïvely believes we can discover best practices for us only by soliciting opinions from amongst us and reviving some imagined past where the transmission of knowledge between generations was believed to be almost seamlessly perfect.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      And don’t forget the University of Tromsø in tiny socialist Norway. It’s located farther north than Igloolik. A parade of Liberal and Conservative governments in Ottawa have failed Canadians and Nunavummiut for decades. The two old line parties were fresh out of new ideas a long time ago.

  3. Posted by Worldly experience on

    It’s a worldly experience to go to other places to learn and experience another culture. That what students all over the world seek out. Why shouldn’t northern students be encouraged to seek out similar experiences. Why just stay in the northern areas to learn only about the northern life? That would be denying that great opportunity. The world becomes a greater place for all of us when we allow ourselves theses experiences.

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    • Posted by CSR on

      According to this nonsense, no one should study in their own home jurisdiction.
      Nunavut needs a University.

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      • Posted by Degreed on

        That is not exactly what is being said here, but it’s a worthwhile clarification to make.

        Firstly, not all post-secondary education is University level. Nunavut needs to continue to develop its college and trades programs. As for University, it is also possible to have the college deliver some first and second year credits that are transferable to southern institutions, reducing the time needed away from home.

        Nunavut does not need a University, what it does need are people educated in Universities.

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        • Posted by Degreed Inuk on

          Yes, we can sit back and let Memorial take us further into Newfievut and attract all the research money with it or we can chart our own course and educate our best along with southerners. Nunavut needs a university. We don’t need to be a branch plant of Memorial.

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          • Posted by Nunavut needs a University (sic) on

            Nunavut doesnt need a university. Nunavut needs to start seeing less teenage pregnancies and more high school graduates, more trade school graduates, more qualified students going south for high education. Part of education is immersing yourself in a world that is foreign, whether its a different community or a different province/territory. Start by looking at the graduation rates for NAC. Most people that sign up for it have no intention in graduating, same goes with NS.

            For a University to thrive you need thousands of students. You need tons of support staff and tons of qualified instructors (usually doctorate level professors).

            Nunavut does not need a University. Nunavut is not ready for a University.

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          • Posted by Pie in the sky on

            Dear degreed Inuk, I suppose you should know what a false dichotomy is. If not, you’ve presented a good one here.

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          • Posted by What Personnel? on

            We can’t staff and lead our trade school/community college, who will run a university? We would need to recruit staff nationally and internationally, and that would be a chore and a half. What can we offer to entice experienced university administrators, professors, and their families to Nunavut? You think that it is hard getting nurses? Trying doing a competition for experienced professors of engineering!

            Can you imagine the reaction to a Nunavut university that this 85% staffed with non-Nunavummiut, many not even Canadian? Wouldn’t go over well, yet that would be reality, How many Nunavummiut would qualify for even entry-level instructor positions at a university? Very very few. The xenophobes would have a field day. We certainly don’t have a surplus of post-doc qualifed people just sitting around, that’s for sure.

            The whole territory only has the population of a large town, very few high school graduates who qualify for direct entry to university-level programs without remedial education, and no pool of administrators, leaders, and instructional staff to call upon.

            The other territories are decades ahead of us developmentally, and they are just starting to convert trade schools to universities. We are not there yet. We need to be realistic.

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  4. Posted by Tim Innualuk on

    Having being involved in the regulation and planning of the current trades centre, I feel trades has to start at the high school level like in some jurisdictions.

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  5. Posted by Poor me on

    Nunavut needs to get over the poor me syndrome, and get with education. This mentality of we deserve to stay home, and get it all, is not good for any

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  6. Posted by Judgment is Needed on

    A cautionary take and possibly a useful analogy to a University in Nunavut might be the CHARS building in Cambridge Bay…

    So, does Nunavut need a university, or is the better question whether Nunavut is ready for a University? Is the creation of a University the best, or even a good use of limited resources at this time?

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    • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

      “…does Nunavut need a university, or is the better question whether Nunavut is ready for a University?”

      what an absurd rhetorical question. clearly, you don’t understand what a college or university is.

      Nunavut has much to offer; things we couldn’t even imagine are possible where education is concerned. In fact, we should seed retreats (internet connected outpost camps) for grad and post-grad students to openly, unabashedly attract attention and talent.

      Field research of all types is already happening in Nunavut since forever, *judgement is needed*. a university in Nunavut equipped to cater to this untapped potential would cut down on costs, fer sher.

      the only way it would fail is if Nunavut insisted on control of research and ideology. I mean, there is no point without academic freedom.

      “is Nunavut ready for a University?”

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      • Posted by Judgment is Needed on

        Dear Jay, before you dismiss me as someone who clearly knows nothing about what a university is let me tell you a little about my background. I took my first university course about 27 years ago. After completing two degrees and trades certification at multiple institutions I continue to take university courses even to this day. At one time I even worked for a College. So, while I am “fer sher” unlikely to have the same depth of understanding as you, I believe it would be fair to say I have some idea about the purpose of a university.

        As for the rest of your comments, you say that field research has been going on in Nunavut forever.

        So what?

        How much is the CHARS station in Cambridge accelerating home grown research and the development of Nunavummiut as researchers? Are we reaching the kind of critical mass where we can no longer accommodate applicants from within the territory? “Fer sher” I have some serious doubts.

        That’s like judging a mycelial network on it’s tiny mushroom bulb

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        • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

          why you’d be against a university in Nunavut is all the more astounding given your credentials.

          CHARS is Harper’s baby.

          • Posted by Judgement is needed on

            Framing this as an either / or, for or against a university is not helping us understand each other. I’m not fundamentally against a university. But as I see it Nunavut is not realistically prepared for one at this time.

            Chars is an analogy, looks at the tens of millions poured into that building, yet what good is it currently serving us? What prospects do you think it ever has of giving a worthwhile return to Nunavut?

            CHARS is federal, but a University would have to be supported by the GN, the return be worthwhile? Would it add a significant drag on our budget? And for what, to satisfy our desire for the prestige of a University?

      • Posted by Ineffective on

        Nunavut already controls research ideology. The process for research approval there is …let’s say… unorthodox. Your NRI and its staff needs a close inspection and overhaul.

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  7. Posted by Old Timer on

    NTI need to step in to this more and help out

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  8. Posted by iWonder on

    It is good to discuss the issues around a university, but the more pressing discussion, in my opinion, is around the effectiveness and relative success (or not) of Arctic College in delivering useful programs to Nunavummiut. Is the College living up to its mission, or not?

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  9. Posted by Worldly educated on

    When I went out of my small community to university, it’s homesickness that I had to overcome. It had nothing to do with other people’s rejection. Fortunately I got over the homesickness, and was able to continue my studies. Being among different people and cultures was my richest experience. Now I’m in the north, and appreciate my culture , your culture and all cultures.

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  10. Posted by Nunaversity on

    Talk about a university in Nunavut seriously needs to stop. It’s absolutely ludicrous and the government already wasted (might as well have burned) $250,000 to pay KPMG to do a feasibility study due to public pressure.
    .
    And what did that feasibility study say? Pretty much what everybody with half a brain already knew. That it would take 50 years to reach student enrollment of 500, which is the amount required to officially be a university. It also found that the cost of tuition would be more than double the national average, which is still not surprising. It found that it would cost over $100 million to build and $15 million per year to operate, which is likely also a low figure if you compare it to the costs to build and operate CHARS.
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    It would be incredibly difficult to attract students out-of-territory students here due to the tuition and living expenses, as students at any university already struggle to get by. And as others have already pointed out, trying to recruit doctoral professors to teach at a university in Nunavut would be an absolute nightmare.
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    There are currently 97 universities in Canada, which means there’s 1 university for every 388,000 people. Nunavut has 1/10th of that with a population of 38,800, with the highest high school drop-out rate in the country, and somehow people still think a university here is a good idea.

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    • Posted by Degreed Inuk on

      The KPMG report was designed from the ground up to undermine the Nunavut University initiative at the behest of the Government of Newfievut.
      A University does not need thousands of students to exist. If this were the case, all sorts of Universities would never have gotten off the ground including in Iceland and Greenland.Both places have seen huge benefits from the creation of their universities. I realize that educated Inuit and Inuit control over an Arctic University and its funding is a enormous threat to all sorts of southern vested interests in the North but too bad. It’s happening.

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      • Posted by iWonder on

        Dear Degreed Inuk, I am struggling to make sense of these ideas you are so casually releasing into the firmament.

        For example, the post you are responding too said that to be viable a university would require at least 500 students, yet you rail against an imaginary “thousands.” This is a completely bad faith response.

        Granted, the University of Greenland has only around 200 students, while the University of Iceland has over 10,000 and has been active for over 100 years. I’m not sure that the latter is useful to your point, though the former may be.

        As an educated person I wonder if you could expand on your claim that the KPGM had some interest in undermining a University in Nunavut. Why would they?

        Also, what vested southern interests do you see as being threatened by a University in Nunavut specifically? Off hand, I can’t think of any.

      • Posted by Demographics are Reality on

        Why would Inuit control an ‘Arctic University’? Inuit are not the majority of the arctic population, so I would expect that there would be a diverse mix of northerners. Perhaps you meant to say a Nunavut university?

        Regardless, people educated to the level needed to teach in university are as rare as hen’s teeth, and even more so among northerners, be they Inuit or not. It will be many decades before adequate numbers of sufficiently educated northerners, Inuit or not, are produced to staff a university – that is just simple demographics.

        We couldn’t even transfer the arctic college staff over to a university as the overwhelming majority of them lack the necessary qualifications.

        The University of Greenland has a tiny core of permanent staff of 10 or so (I had the pleasure of collaborating on a research project there about 18 years ago) and the rest are fly-in in specialists from Europe, while most Greenland students attend European universities. This is not much different to Nunavut, and how university level programs run at Arctic College. Looking at expanding this sort of model is certainly worth the time, but funding the infrastructure for a full ‘university’? No, not worth the candle.

        As for Iceland, that is a country, and a wealthy country at that, and the university there is the national university, so comparing it to an economically impoverished territory doesn’t really work. Don’t know anything about the school, but Google tells me that it has about 14,000 students and 1,500 staff and is 110 years old. So, not really a good comparison with Nunavut’s demographics.

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        • Posted by Northerner on

          If tiny socialist Norway can build and staff the University of Tromsø, which is even farther north than Igloolik, so can Canada. The problem with Canada and its under-funded provinces and territories is that our Liberal/Conservative governments have been following neoliberal economic nonsense(Washington consensus) since the 1980s. 35 years worth of corporate welfare handouts, tax cuts for superrich people and austerity, has not worked anywhere in the world where tried. Fiscal austerity is like buttoning your collective coat buttons too tightly, and then you’re unable to breathe. Same goes for the economy creeping along at anemic rates for the last 35 years. Four decades, four recessions. Neoliberal economic philosophy is now dead in the most elite schools for economics but lives on in the minds of yesterday’s politicians beginning with Mulroney and Chretien through E.E. O’Toole and Justin Trudeau. We need a new way in Ottawa and the provinces/territories.

      • Posted by Degreed Canadian on

        If you really think that a major Canadian accounting firm would fudge a report for $250 grand, you are either degreed in fantasy writing or are not equipped to gauge with this topic. KPMG deals in billions on account of professionalism and expertise (not saying great ethics). What a bunch of nonsense. Nunavut cannot fund, staff, or maintain enrollment for a university. Let’s focus on graduating 75%+ of high schoolers and revisit in year 2100.

  11. Posted by Throw a parade for your teacher on

    Nunavut needs to become a place where a student leaving to get their teaching degree and coming back ISN’T a parade worthy event.

    Be the change you want to see. Tell your little Inuk child to become a teacher when they grow up. And not one of these fake teachers that doesn’t have their degree that the elementary schools are filled with.

    • Posted by Parades on

      In a place where an Inuk education grad can become a deputy minister overnight, we really need to consider how understaffed even basic positions are. Why would anyone be a teacher when having a degree as an Inuk person means you’ll be immediately promoted to $225k plus positions. No one will choose teaching when this is the state of education. Why get a degree at all when if you complete grade eleven you can earn 80k at any GN entry job? Way too easy in Nunavut to work.

      • Posted by Candide on

        I see your point, but not everyone who gets an education is motivated by the prospect of the largest pay-cheque possible (though some may be). For many people who teach the chance to make a lifelong, positive impact on people is a strong motivator. And there is a good living to be made here too.

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