Nunavut jump-starts education reform with three big changes
Reforms to curriculum, student evaluation start in 2014-2015
The Government of Nunavut announced March 21 the first steps in a $1 million upgrade to curriculum and evaluation standards for all schools in Nunavut — starting with kindergarten to Grade 4 classes in 2014-2015.
The plan focuses on literacy, math and science, and includes a new assessment system to measure student progress.
“We have heard from parents and communities that they want our students to develop the math, science and literacy skills they need to successfully pursue post-secondary studies, or find satisfying and challenging employment,” Paul Quassa, Nunavut’s minister of education, said at a press conference held at Aqsarniit middle school in Iqaluit.
A new Nunavut-wide assessment system “allows for standardized teacher instruction and helps assess the performance of students,” Quassa said. (See embedded document.)
This ensures that students across the territory will meet the same standards, he said.
Updates to curriculum will occur between Grade 5 and Grade 8 and between Grade 9 to and Grade 12 in following years. (See embedded document.)
The government is also “adopting and adapting” curriculum materials for all three subjects from the Northwest Territories and Alberta, the minister said.
“This gives us the ability to update, standardize and strengthen our curriculum without being held up by limited capacity,” he said, pointing out that his department doesn’t have enough people to build a Nunavut curriculum from scratch.
The curriculum changes include adopting:
• the NWT-Alberta math curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 6;
• the Alberta math curriculum for Grades 7, 8 and 9, including the knowledge and employability course options for grades 10 and 11;
• the NWT-Alberta science curriculum for Grades 7, 8, and 9;
• the Alberta science 14 and science 24 programs to replace the old science 15/25 programs; and,
• the NWT’s kindergarten to Grade 9 English language arts curriculum.
The Nunavut Department of Education put a special emphasis on literacy as an important foundation for the territory’s education system, citing “underdeveloped literacy skills as the number one reason why students fail to graduate from high school.”
To overcome this, the department will introduce “standardized assessments” at every level, as part of a new system that will include programs in guided reading, writing, and word study, the department said in a March 21 news release.
Although the source material is in English, the new system will teach literacy in all of Nunavut’s official languages.
“We want to make sure that we have the Inuktut resources to mirror the English-guided writing and reading,” said Kathy Okpik, deputy minister of education.
All materials will be translated into the Inuit language and French for kindergarten to Grade 4 by fall, she said.
The department will monitor student achievement using three forms of assessment, which they call formative, benchmark and summative.
“Formative” means direct assessments that teachers do in class.
“Benchmark” assessments are to be done every three to four months.
“Summative” measure what a student has learned over a year-long course.
Quassa and Okpik promised that the reforms are just a first step in a larger series of changes that will respond to the Auditor General of Canada’s report in November 2013.
Okpik said more changes are in the works to improve school safety and a new initiative on “inclusive education.”
Okpik also promised the department will follow up on efforts to curb social promotion – the automatic advancement of students from one grade to the next no matter what they have learned.
“We have looked very closely at what the Auditor General’s report states,” Quassa said.
“We fully agree with all the recommendations, and we have been following up on it. We’ve always had the desire to constantly review the systems we’re using.”