Nunavut MLA questions social promotion of students in GN schools
"It is doing a great disservice to the youth of Nunavut”
Moving students in Nunavut schools from one grade to the next isn’t helping them, said MLAs speaking March 6 in the Nunavut legislature.
The Department of Education should reconsider using “social promotion” or “continuous progress” in Nunavut schools, said South Baffin MLA Fred Schell.
“Whatever name we put to the practice, it is doing a great disservice to the youth of Nunavut,” Schell said.
Schell asked Eva Aariak, Nunavut’s minister of education, how students are expected to progress through each grade if they aren’t actually doing the work.
Schell suggested the education department needs to take a second look at using continuous progress, or social promotion, from Grade 1 to Grade 9, and bring in educational practices that will “truly support” Nunavut students to succeed.
That’s because Nunavut students face problems when they reach high school in Grade 10,11, and 12, when they hit the “brick wall” of departmental exams.
These assess whether they actually learned the material in the curriculum.
“Far too many of our students hit the brick wall of departmental exams and don’t make it over the side, our education system, which includes the practice of continually progressing students all the way through Grade 9, leaving them abandoned without the necessary skills to make it through high school,” said Schell, who asked Aariak to clarify the difference between social promotion and continuous progress.
Nunavut’s education act supports “learning to be continuous and our current policy reflects this,” Aariak responded.
There may be certain circumstances when keeping back a student may be “suitable,” but that should not be a regular procedure, Aariak said.
And the new education act states that the school team is responsible for determining the promotion of students, she said.
So the school administrators, a student support teacher, the school counselor, the classroom teacher and the parents of the student are supposed to discuss the situation.
“No child is left behind without a decision from this team,” Aariak said.
Currently her department is reviewing student assessments, evaluation policies and practices.
“I appreciate much of the feedback we’ve received from much of Nunavummiut in regards to what they feel and how they think about social promotion and what not,” she said.
But Schell pointed to a conversation he had with a teacher who had been teaching in a Nunavut community for more than 16 years.
“He stated to me that there were a couple students that only showed up 10 per cent of the time, and they had no choice but to move them to the next grade,” he said.
Attendance is a very important factor to successfully complete the grades that a student needs to complete, Aariak acknowledged.
So, careful assessment and record-keeping is important to make sure a student isn’t missing any portion of the lessons that he or she missed, she said.
The GN will continue to review research and advances in other Canadian jurisdictions to “provide the best possible support, to school staff, parents and ultimately the students,” she said.
And her department is listening to concerns from parents.
“I am not dismissing any of the concerns that the parents raised about [what] they’ve been experiencing,” she said.
Amittuq MLA Louis Tapardjuk also said March 6 that he’s worried about Nunavut students.
“They’re not actually at their grade level,” he said, adding that in Grade 12 students can actually be at the Grade 8 level.