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Lack of parental encouragement top factor in Nunavut's high school drop-out rate

A recent report by a researcher from the University of Winnipeg says parental encouragement and daycare are the two biggest factors influencing whether Nunavut teens finish high school.

'I'm sure people aren't surprised to hear this,' says University of Winnipeg researcher

Students board a school bus at the Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

A recent report by a researcher from the University of Winnipeg says parental encouragement and daycare are the two biggest factors influencing whether Nunavut teens finish high school.

Nunavut's high school graduation rate is the lowest in Canada at 57 per cent – the next lowest is the Northwest Territories at 81 per cent.

Melanie O'Gorman, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Winnipeg, went to Nunavut with a colleague three years ago and surveyed more than 500 young people in five communities.

"What we found, very strongly, was the most important factor associated with high school dropout was the lack of parental encouragement, or conversely, the most important thing leading to high school graduation, among our sample, was having a parent that encourages you to go to school each and every day," she said.

"I'm sure people aren't surprised to hear this. What is surprising is it's much more important than so many other factors."

O'Gorman also says students drop out because of child care issues.

"We had a highly qualitative question, a very open-ended question, where we asked 'Why did you drop out?' Simple as that," O'Gorman said. 

"The top answer was that the individual had a child. They either had to babysit their child, or having the child interrupted their studies."

The study makes many recommendations including making family engagement a top priority, increasing school activities and investing in daycares.

Education Minister Paul Quassa says he's not surprised by the findings. He says they've been working to address daycare availability during renovations or new construction projects.

"This department and this government has stated very clearly that every new school we'll be building will have, in fact, a daycare," he said, adding that high schools undergoing renovations will have daycares added to them.

O'Gorman sent the final report to the government, schools, and District Education Authorities but says she hasn't received any feedback.

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