Challenges in K-12 Education

old Moravian books from the missions, that date back centuries in Labrador

Moravian books from the missions

For centuries there were attempts made by governments and non-Aboriginals to educate aboriginal children and young adults. Attempts have ranged from Moravian Christian missions to Residential schools, where the goal was to “kill the Indian in the child”. While there were numerous problems with all these attempts, the biggest reason for their failures is that they aimed at assimilation. The goal was to assimilate the Inuit into mainstream Caucasian and Christian culture in hopes that they would abandon their native language, practices and values. This is now seen as a form of cultural genocide. It has had long lasting negative effects that continue to affect the Inuit people. These attempts have led to tense relations and a sense of distrust towards both the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is a balancing act of sorts. School curriculum should contain history, social and culture aspects pertaining to Inuit. These things are important to be remembered and learned by its people and not just disappear into the past. However, it is necessary that students be educated and learn the same basic skills as other students in the province in order to pass standardized tests. These tests and exams are administered at various grade levels and students need to perform well to advance from grade to grade and to eventually graduate. Students need to be academically prepared for life after high school. Post-secondary education is much more rigorous academically than high school and students should be ready for that. To succeed in most modern job markets a formal education can prove to be invaluable, depending on what career one may aim for. That formal education can usually only be obtained in a certified school system.

In the 2006 Canadian census, 40% of Aboriginal adults aged 20-24 had not completed high school. This was only 13% for non-Aboriginals. These statistics show the large number of Aboriginal young adults who are not completing high school. When parents, siblings, and relatives don’t make education a priority for themselves, it will be hard to make education a priority for future generations.



Nunatsiavut Government. “Department Overview, Building Self-Reliance.” Nunatsiavut Government. (accessed 8 November 2014).


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