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Call for end to social passing
District education authorities have hope for premier's commitment to improve education

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 9, 2013

Members of the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs are hopeful the premier's commitment to improve the territory's education system will lead to the end of social passing.

The practice ensures students move onto the next grade, even if they don't perform well enough in school to achieve requirements.

"The DEAs (district education authorities) feel they are failing their kids," said coalition executive director Nikki Eegeesiak. "We want to see more graduates with their deserving diploma. I know the parents and communities would have more faith in the education system."

Concerns over social passing, also known as continuous progress, have also been voiced by MLAs, parents and principals.

Principals say the main issue is there aren't adequate resources to support students, according to Eegeesiak.

Vicki Aitaok, a parent and Ikaluktutiak DEA member, agreed, saying the current system expects too much from teachers.

"How can a teacher teach 20 children at 18 or 16 or 15 different levels by themselves? What is the reality of that? Let's just be serious," said Aitaok. "We believe strongly in our teachers but the reality is one person cannot possibly maintain that kind of diverse ranging."

Social promotion, she said, hides the underlying issues that really need to be addressed, such as poor attendance, lack of parental support or a learning disability.

Sometimes students need extra time to complete their work, she said, adding her own children needed that chance.

If a child needs to be held back for one year, it doesn't mean they aren't capable or that they're dumb, said Aitaok.

"There is nothing negative about it," she said, saying it's actually positive because it means they'll be learning what is required.

"When a socially promoted child reaches Grade 10, they are faced with puberty, peer pressure and self-esteem issues.

"The reality that they can't read or write at a Grade 10 level is almost impossible for any child or parent to bear.

"It's too late at this point. Children need to learn to deal with failure."

Nearly half of Nunavummiut aged 25 to 64 don't hold a diploma or degree, according to Statistics Canada's 2011 National Household Survey.

Also, in 2012, 42 per cent of Inuit aged 18 to 44 held a high school diploma or equivalent, the recent Aboriginals Peoples Survey revealed. Comparatively, 77 per cent of Metis, 89 per cent of non-aboriginal people and 72 per cent of First Nations people living off reserve held a high school diploma.

Inuit make up about 85 per cent of Nunavut's population.

The survey also showed that 15 per cent of Inuit who completed high school left school at least once before getting their diploma.

Men typically cited a desire to work, money problems, school problems or a lack of interest as their reason for dropping out. Women, on the other hand, attributed their decision to drop out to pregnancy or child care responsibilities.

The key to changing the education system is for the territorial government to consult more with DEAs, parents and school officials, stated Willie Nakoolak, chair of the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs, in a news release.

"The Coalition of DEAs has been hearing a growing voice of concern over social passing and we are encouraged that the premier has made this a priority for his new government," he stated.

"DEAs share the same goal as the Department of Education - we want to improve education so we graduate more students."

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