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Is the Department of Education satisfied with great number of students failing departmental exams, Main asks

Citing a fail rate of one out of four students taking departmental exams, Arviat North-Whale Cove John Main questioned the Department of Education's position that low graduation rates are an emerging challenge.

Arviat North-Whale Cove John Main questioned the Department of Education's position that low graduation rates are an emerging challenge, and asked Minister David Joanasie if his department is satisfied with one in four, sometimes one in three, students failing departmental exams with less than 50 per cent.
photo courtesy Nunavut Legislative Assembly

"In 2016, 485 departmental exams were passed with a mark over 50 percent, 201 were failed; in 2017, 508 exams were passed, 216 were failed; in 2018, 445 exams were passed, 162 were failed. Roughly one in four exams received a failing grade. I’m being generous. Some years it appears to be closer to one in three," said Main, reading from a written response he received from the department.

Main emphasized he found the statistics concerning.

"In a recent request for proposals, RFP 2019-15, on page 9 of 41, this is the Department of Education RFP, there is reference to low graduation quality and it’s referred to as an emerging challenge," he said.

The Department of Education recently hired the firm DPRA Canada Inc. to create a 10-year vision for education in the territory, citing emerging challenges it needs to deal with, most of which are long-existing challenges, such as risk of language and dialect loss, infrastructure issues, poor student attendance, among others.

Main asked Education Minister David Joanasie if the graduation rate was satisfactory to his department, and what the trend is in terms of passing departmental exams.

"Is it staying stable? Is it worsening or is it getting better in terms of the pass/fail rate on departmental exams," he asked.

Joanasie proceeded to explain departmental exams: that they come from Alberta, and that his department has to match what's accepted at universities, without answering Main's question. He did note student assessment is a priority for his department and that the department wants to make improvements.

"I'm interested in the trend," repeated Main.

"What is the trend that the department is seeing? Are more Nunavut students passing their departmental exams or are more Nunavut students failing their departmental exams as time passes over the years, or is it staying stable? I would appreciate a response."

Main noted he only had three years' worth of data from the written response.

Joanasie replied that it's "relatively stable," basing his reply on the written response.

"I had indicated that we are seeing greater numbers of our students graduating. In 2018, we had 41 percent net graduation rate," said Joanasie.

The GN had previously publicly reported that in 2000 graduation rates were at roughly 20 to 30 per cent.

"We want to continue to increase that number. If there any suggestions on how we can do that, we are open," said Joanasie.

"One of the ways we want to try to address that is through the RFP and gaining some insight from external partners on how we can achieve a higher graduation rate."