Nunavut schools dodge national science test
Exam “not relevant to the majority of our students”
Most Canadians learned how much science their kids are learning in schools last week, but not Nunavummiut.
Nunavut was the only jurisdiction to opt out of the 2004 School Achievement Indicators Program science test – the fourth such national student test that the Council of Ministers of Education has conducted since Nunavut became a territory in 1999.
Peter Geikie, assistant deputy minister of education for the government of Nunavut, said the tests were “not relevant to the majority of our students.”
He gave two reasons for this. First, several of the questions use southern examples that don’t make sense to Nunavut students. As an example, Geikie cited questions about pollution that use farming or industrial activity to illustrate a scientific concept.
Geikie gave another reason for not administering the tests: “The tests are designed for students whose first language is English.”
The School Achievement Indicators Program tests 13- and 16-year-olds across the country every two years. Subjects for the test rotate from science, math, and reading and writing.
In 2002, Nunavut also opted out of the national reading and writing test.
Nunavut did participate in the 1999 SAIP science test – but did poorly.
The tests measure students’ understanding in five levels. On the 1999 test, 71.0 per cent of 13-year-olds scored below Level I, the lowest level of understanding, compared to just 11.9 per cent across Canada.
Nunavut also participated in the 2001 math test, and the results were grim.
Just 27.8 per cent of 13-year-olds reached Level 1, compared to 88 per cent across Canada. Sixteen-year-olds did slightly better, with just over half reaching Level 1, compared to 91.5 per cent Canada-wide.
In addition to the tests the students write, the CMEC also surveys the context of student learning, including family status, school conditions and students’ perceptions about school.
Funding for the tests comes from Human Resources Development Canada as well as the jurisdictions where the tests are written.