Nunavut's new high school curriculum will offer students a choice of six majors with an emphasis on practical skills, in the hopes it will keep more students in school.
Inuit elders and education staff, who have been working on the new curriculum for years, also say it’s a better reflection of the territory’s unique culture. Nunavut’s current education guidelines were set before it became its own territory and they were based on those of Alberta and the other territories.
The government has decided to move to a new multiple-option system. In addition to courses such as math and science, students can choose to major in one of six new areas:
- Introduction to trades and technology
- History, heritage and culture
- Community caregiving and family studies
- Entrepreneurship and small-business studies
- Fine arts and crafts
- Information technology
Diplomas will display students’ majors when they graduate.
"We’re hoping it will keep more kids in school. Because right now, sometimes there isn’t as much practical hands-on coursework and it’s very ad-hoc," said Cathy McGregor, director of curriculum development for Nunavut’s Department of Education.
"So I think if it’s more organized and more co-ordinated, it might be more stimulating and challenging for kids."
Pascale Baillargeon, a guidance counsellor at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, comes face to face with the territory’s notoriously high drop-out rates and low attendance every day. But she says it is not a hopeless cause.
"The kids are genuinely interested. It’s just making that connection," she said.
The Department of Education hopes the new curriculum will do the trick but Baillargeon said it won’t solve every issue. Some of the curriculum’s limitations are that few schools, if any, will be able to offer all six specialties. Most will only be able to provide two or three.
The new curriculum comes into effect in September 2013.