Nunavut government doesn’t prepare students for jobs or post-secondary education, says auditor general

Report says Family Services, Education and Nunavut Arctic College should work together

James McKenzie, principal auditor at the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, has released a report that examines how well Nunavut’s Department of Education, Nunavut Arctic College and the Department of Family Services helped high school students and adult learners transition from high school to post-secondary education and employment. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada says Nunavut’s Education Department does not adequately prepare high school students or adult learners for either post-secondary education or employment.

The results of a three-year audit, which examined whether Nunavut Arctic College, the Department of Family Services and the Department of Education helped high school students and adult learners transition through post-secondary education and employment, were released on Tuesday afternoon at Nunavut’s legislative assembly.

The report, titled “Support for High School Students and Adult Learners,” states Nunavut’s Education Department has no strategy to help students graduate and transition from high school to post-secondary education or employment and that adults in the territory are facing major barriers to advancing their education.

The report spells out 12 recommendations to all three organizations involved in the audit. As part of the process, the organizations were presented with the recommendations in advance of the audit’s release.

The Government of Nunavut agreed with all 12 recommendations, the report states.

“Overall, we found a number of gaps and barriers in Nunavut’s education system that made it difficult for high school students and adult learners to succeed academically and transition to post-secondary education and employment,” the principal auditor, James McKenzie, said at a news conference.

Department of Education did not prepare students for post-secondary education

The audit studied seven high schools across Nunavut’s three regions over a period of three school years ending in 2018. The names of the seven schools are not public, but may become public later in the legislature’s discussions of the report, McKenzie said.

Only four of the seven schools studied had students prepare career and program plans meant to help guide students through high school. Nunavut’s high school curriculum requires Grade 9 students to develop these plans and update them at least once a year, the report states.

The audit also found that some students need more than one year to complete a grade. The report states 39 per cent of students enrolled in Grade 10, 11 or 12 had been enrolled in the same grade the year before.

Of the students who took more than one year to complete a grade, one-third would leave school before finishing that grade.

The report highlights the need for alternative pathways to graduation to help students stay in school. At the time of the audit, only one graduation pathway was available for students. The department was also examining alternative diploma options at the time but had set no clear direction or timeline to complete this work.

In a response to one of the report’s recommendations, the department said it staffed a new position to “support the transition of adult learners from either high school, post-secondary education, or the labour market.”

All seven schools offered courses that provide hands-on learning, but only one school, Kugluktuk High School, which is named in the report, offered a pre-trades program.

“What we found interesting about the program in Kugluktuk is … they offered the hands-on learning, but they also emphasized the math and the academic classes,” McKenzie said.

The report also points out that Nunavut Arctic College did not have an outreach strategy or team to inform high school students about its programs.

And for prospective students who might have gone searching for the college’s offerings, they would have found the program calendar and admission requirements to be out of date.

The report recommends that the college inform students about its programs and ensure information on its programs and entrance requirements are kept up to date.

But the problems also lie within the Education Department, according to the report. In the department’s educator development division, which is responsible for training school staff on the department’s directives and improving teaching practices, 18 out of 22 positions were vacant at the time of the audit.

“There’s a lot of discussion about the teachers, but the curriculum and the educator support people play an important role in supporting the teachers,” McKenzie said.

In the curriculum development division of the department, 12 out of 21 positions were vacant. The curriculum for many courses had not been updated for more than 10 years or to “reflect the Nunavut context,” the report states.

Department officials said these vacancies were the result of many factors, including lack of housing, a lengthy staffing process and a low number of applicants, the report states.

In 2018, Nunavut’s Education Department created a three-person team responsible for career development programming and the review and modification of the department’s guidance and course offerings on career planning.

Only the team lead position had been staffed by the end of the audit period, the report states.

At the time of the audit, the Education Department did not have formal guidance counsellor positions in the schools. Two of the seven schools had assigned teachers to provide guidance and advice to students.

Adult learners face barriers to education

Nunavut Arctic College’s Adult Basic Education program has only been available in a few communities in recent years.

Adult learners face barriers to developing their literacy and other academic skills needed to get a high school diploma, enter the workforce or enter a post-secondary program, the report states.

Nunavut Arctic College delivers an Adult Basic Education or “ABE” program that provides adult learners with similar courses to what is available in the territory’s high schools. The ABE program was not offered in most of Nunavut’s communities over the last five years, the report notes.

The audit also found that preparatory programs offered through the college to help learners develop skills necessary to access the college’s programs, such as nursing and teaching, were only offered in a few communities because of funding constraints.

Additionally, financial aid was not available to adult learners taking part-time programs, high school courses and most ABE programs. As a result, many adult learners had to leave their communities to access these programs, the audit found.

Most students enrolled in the Pathway to Adult Secondary School program started with so few credits, they wouldn’t be able to graduate even after taking the program.

The Pathway to Adult Secondary School (PASS) program offered through the department and the college offers seven courses where learners can earn up to 35 credits.

Like Nunavut high school students, PASS participants need 100 credits to obtain their high school diploma.

But 71 per cent of participants accepted into PASS had fewer than 65 credits. So even if those students took every course PASS offers, they would still not have enough credits to graduate, the audit found.

The report recommends that the department review the requirements needed to obtain a high school diploma through PASS. In its response, the department said it is currently reviewing the program and commissioned a review in April 2018 to address the policy gap and expects the gap to be resolved by spring 2019.

The audit also found the college was not consistently collecting information on the number of applicants to its programs or the results of entrance tests.

“They’re not sharing that information within the college nor with the Department of Education who also has responsibilities for adult education,” McKenzie said.

“Family Services, the Department of Education, and the college should all really be working together … the more that they can work together and share that information, they can potentially better cater their programs,” he added.

The report notes that at the time of the audit, the GN was reviewing the Education Act. The audit did not examine federal training programs funded by the federal government or the activities of district education authorities.

Auditors who contributed to the report will be meeting with department officials in Iqaluit later this week to discuss the report. The legislative assembly is expected to review the report in the fall and issue a report.

You can find a full copy of the report here.

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by Umilik on


  2. Posted by Educate the masses on

    These departments have a habit of confuising masses not working with anyone is one hand doing something and the other doing something else? Keep everyone confused? Is there a bully who manages these people who has a hand in the accounts? Its been there for so long that no one can take them out? what is it that they dont to let go? the groups created? GN has been nothing more than club mentality the last 2 decades some getting something communities getting nothing?

  3. Posted by Aurora on

    So….for the only school that gets a remotely positive mention in this report…the KSO doesn’t renew the principal’s contract? Well done, Kugluktuk.

  4. Posted by Ken on

    What I don’t understand is how the GN cannot work together? How is that possible?
    Is it so dysfunctional? It’s no wonder the GNs training is pathetic!
    Things were starting to changes before the gong show of ousting and replacing the Premier, now it seems to be status quo and things aren’t really improving.

  5. Posted by Root causes on

    They want yet more “alternative pathways to graduation”? The kids graduating already can’t handle university or college work for the most part, and have to go to the NS program in Ottawa for 2 years to get up to speed, and many who get there can’t handle the second year of that program, either.
    The issues are way more basic than being the fault of the governments. The kids are born to teenagers in the first place, were often exposed to alcohol in utero, which gives them lifelong disabilities that are often invisible. Kids are not made to attend school, and are not made to meet any standards before being passed along to the next grade. Of course they can’t handle high school once they finally get there, but even then, they graduate with substandard capabilities compared to mainstream Canadians, because that is what is demanded, a falsely high graduation rate.
    When the root causes are so huge, there is pretty much nothing that can be done in late adolescence or adulthood to catch people up. It’s sad, but it’s true. The root causes must be dealt with before anything effective can be done to help those who are the products of this dysfunction.

    • Posted by Unamused on

      “Kids are not made to attend school, and are not made to meet any standards before being passed along to the next grade.”

      I guarantee that the moment there was a rule put in place holding parents responsible for getting their kids to school, and requiring kids to be there that was actually enforced, there would be an immediate complaint about outsiders imposing qallunaq culture.

  6. Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

    It is good the GN is being sounded for not doing enough for Nunavut students. The biggest obstacle has been social passing where students are bumped from grade to grade until they get to senior high (Grade 10 on) and finally held accountable for their grade4s, when most bare unable to read and write fluently in both English and Inuktitut. Many of us left home to just even go to high school (Yellowknife, Rankin, Iqaluit), with high schools in every community, would’ve expected higher graduation rates and maintain fluency in both languages. But, alas, we are still on welfare lines while transients rule our communities because they are “educated”.

  7. Posted by A big question is… on

    Why did the “re-alignment” occur? Whereby, districts (RSOs) were deconstructed to create the new Teacher/Educator Development dept? 18 of 22 positions are vacant and the 4 that are staffed are still trying to get on the same page about wtf the PD Framework is. It must have put a lot on the HelpDesk too… there new form of assistance is to tell you to contact another dept or harass you for not showering them with pleasantries. Let’s wait a couple years then spend another qamutiq load of money to revert back to the old system but not before blowing an iglu-sized amount of tax-payers dollars on flying your friends up to stay at the Frobisher and get soapstone carvings as dignitary gifts for consulting.

  8. Posted by Oracle on

    I fear for these kids – especially the boys – they keep dropping out, just sleeping in and walking around doing nothing.
    Males used to be in the NTEP program, Management Studies and girls have assumed these learning positions – just look at NS – it’s mostly girls. Even Environmental Technology is mostly girls. Just look at the few who graduate from small communities there is usually only one boy!
    This is unacceptable .
    We have to back down the trail and pick up every boy off their face and have a targeted campaign aimed at them to realize their future is going nowhere.

    • Posted by DEAN HARVEY on

      This is the BOY CRISIS! They are failing in school, dropping out and then in despair they are killing themselves. We used to spend all our resources on both girls and boys. But now we have all these special programs for girls …. this just means that they decided to spend a bigger share on girls.

  9. Posted by Socrates on

    When did it become the state’s job to ensure children are prepared for adult life? This is the job of the parent, which the government supports. What we need is an audit of parents. It’s just easier to point a finger at government bureaucracies because they are big, organized institutions.

    • Posted by Garbage in garbage out on

      It’s been the “state’s job” since the mid-18th century, at least. This is what we pay taxes for and what we expect. Your comment is such ideologically driven crap I can’t even believe someone would ask this.

      • Posted by Socrates on

        How is it ideological to suggest that parents, the people who choose to bring a child into the world and love it, bear more responsibility for that life than the state? I have more faith in the ability of parents, when they choose to accept their responsibility, than the paid employees of the state bureaucracy.

        • Posted by Garbage in, garbage out on

          For the love of philosophers everywhere please stop debasing the moniker ‘Socrates’ as your comments are unworthy of the name. How are your comments ideological? This is obviously libertarian drivel. You trust your parents to educate you over trained teachers in the 21st century. This is not a viable way forward in our age, though I’m sure it was surely a very sensible and compelling argument around the time of Napoleon.

          • Posted by Socrates on

            I never said that the state should not be involved in education. I said “When did it become the state’s job to ensure children are prepared for adult life?” Academic education is just one piece of the puzzle in preparing a young person for adult life. The state has a role, but ultimate responsibility for preparing a child for their future lies with the parents. In Nunavut, I see very little real involvement of parents in their child’s education.

            • Posted by Plato on

              You’re both correct! The state has an accountability to monitor success rates, as do the parents. AS DO THE PARENTS, in case anyone in the back was dozing off. I think perhaps what Socrates is getting at is this narrative we hear so much about- Especially over the past two weeks- Which makes it seem that it is ONLY the state which is accountable. This “state” of mind makes it too easy for a lazy, uncaring parent to lie back and think, “Well, the system failed us, that’s why my child is 23, never graduated, and might have a great career as a grocery store clerk, at best. When are they going to FIX THE SYSTEM? Oh me, oh my!”. Bottom line: Whether or not a child does well in school is first and foremost the result of the parents’ actions. Absolutely we must monitor and hold administration accountable, but that is secondary. If you want the “luxury” of allowing your kids to run all over town, unchaperoned, at 3am on a Sunday morning, don’t be surprised when they aren’t ready and rested for school on Monday morning. And that’s not a judgment, that’s science. It sucks, it’s hard- My 17-year old says he is “in jail” because we make him come home by 2am during the summer- But that’s what being a parent is about (if you want kids who have a chance at success).

              • Posted by Socrates on


            • Posted by Tomorrow’s Problem on

              Probably about the same time we decided to try to ensure our economic future and less waste on social programs and incarceration costs?

              There is a benefit to all of us if we help each other be successful.

  10. Posted by Putuguk on

    This report in a backward way validates the Nunavut concept and ideal.

    The whole idea was for us to be allowed to do the things we need to do within our communities the way they make sense to do, that end up with the most good. At the time, this was opposed to the clueless upper ups from Yellowknife and Ottawa telling us what to do, and who were only making matters worse.

    The really unfortunate thing is that Iqaluit has morphed into the Yellowknife and Ottawa of old.

    It is no coincidence that the same high school that is as geographically separated as physically possible from Iqaluit is the same one that is on the right track. Nor is it a coincidence that the farther west or more decentralized you go, the more ABE programs are delivered in an effort to avoid our obviously pending “forgotten generation”.

    Lesson seems to be when people enjoy enough benign indifference to get on with what actually needs doing, it is still possible in Nunavut for a few, no-brainer things to get done.

    Who knows, if they took Iqaluit right out of the equation, Nunavut might just start firing on all cylinders. Kudos to all those thankless guys out there keeping the dream alive.

  11. Posted by GN Shuffle on

    Perhaps the GN should combine Education, Arctic College and Family Services under one umbrella, one department, with one vision? Or, create a Super Minister/DM’s responsible for this one vision?
    Maybe NTI could finally use some of their ‘training fund’?
    Maybe people could take some responsibility for their own futures?
    Maybe, Aladdin will lend his lamp?

    • Posted by iRoll on

      Yes of course, a centralized authoritarian structure will solve this. What genius! And we wonder why Nunavut is going no where. Not one sensible, creative or interesting idea to be found anywhere in this mess, more of the old, nothing new.

      • Posted by Brad Chambers on

        You are right that creative ideas are needed. So how about not responding with biting sarcasm when someone puts forward an idea? What you are doing is ‘more of the old, nothing new’. You don’t like an idea, respond with a point or counterpoint. Let me show you how:

        Well, “GN Shuffle”, I see your making a suggestion to facilitate working together and better communication between departments, which is obviously needed. I don’t think gluing them together at the top will help – large bureaucracies just seem to move slower and get more out-of-touch. In our government, much of the direction-setting is done in various corners of Departments, so they need to get connected to each other. That is a management and leadership skill – something at this point in time that we rarely hire for or train for in the GN.

        If you want creative and interesting ideas, add to the debate, don’t shut it down.

  12. Posted by Inuk Person on

    Communication for GN staff is very suppressed, even within GN departments is discouraged.
    Having gone through the education system in Nunavut (secondary and post-secondary), the system is, indeed, set up to fail the students. The NAC application, programs, and course materials are extremely disorganized, causing the students to be confused. The NAC needs to be reformed in order for it to prepare its students for further, more advanced, education and for meaningful employment.

    I hope the partnership with Memorial and Algonquin College will assist in making major changes to NAC.

  13. Posted by Round and round we go again on

    Twenty years later, we are still complaining about the same things not happening in education. The evidence of this is showing up in our current leaders. The ‘leaders’ are not leading, they are managing (people and paperwork).
    Nunavut parents – wake up. Start leading your children to a better future…and this includes modelling the priorities you want for them – go to work every day, go to school every day, speak your language at home, believe in yourself, believe in your children, provide a safe place for your children, feed them daily, involve them in chores, be accountable and hold your children accountable.
    Enough of this blame game already. Instead of ramming Inuit values down our throats through papers. posters and ads, how about LIVING THEM.

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