Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 44

44     AN ETHICAL SPACE FOR DIALOGUE ABOUT DIFFICULT HISTORY: FOSTERING CRITICAL THINKING AMONGST STUDENTS IN CANADA’S NORTHWEST TERRITORIES & NUNAVUT Sarah Daitch The potential for developing human capital in the North rests on improved education outcomes for secondary school students. As part of Northwest Territories and Nunavut education systems’ respective aims towards improved results, new curriculum materials are being developed in the North. One aim for these materials is to overcome persistent inequalities in educational achievement outcomes in the Canadian North. The territorial education departments developed a mandatory curriculum module regarding the history and legacy of the Canadian governments’ former policies of assimilation, and forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families to residential schools. This curriculum and accompanying resource module was piloted in high schools during the 2012-2013 academic year. This article presents a study conducted in collaboration with the territorial departments of education in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, evaluating the curriculum initiative. It examines how Northern Canadian youth connect difficult history with their identity, and become capable of and committed to community and civic engagement in their own lives. Because it is a region undergoing rapid development and governance changes, fostering critical citizenship amongst students is vital. Compassionate students who can think critically will be positioned to improve the Canadian North, and the wider circumpolar Arctic. Introduction: Improving Education in a Transforming Environment In Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut, there is a renewed focus on improving secondary and post-secondary education outcomes. These aim towards bridging the notable gap in education achievements with the rest of Canada, and with other circumpolar regions.1 In Nunavut, the need for improvement in education was a central issue in the October 2013 election (Kennedy Dalseg 2014). The Government of the Northwest Territories announced its Aboriginal Student Achievement Education Plan in 2011, and in 2012, the NWT Education Renewal and Innovation   Sarah Daitch is a mediator, research and public policy consultant and Action Canada Fellow 2013-2014.