An evaluation roadmap for the National Strategy on Inuit Education

The National Strategy on Inuit Education seeks to transform education for Canadian Inuit. The Strategy targets long-standing challenges in education faced by Inuit children, and aims at system-level changes to improve the lives of Inuit people and communities. It asserts a vision for Inuit children to graduate “with the skills and knowledge to contribute with pride and confidence to the 21st century” (NCIE, 2011). This vision includes bilingualism in the Inuit language and at least one of Canada’s official languages. CRECS has been fortunate to be able to contribute to this vision by providing foundational support for a multi-stage evaluation of the Strategy.

CRECS has been working collaboratively with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) for a number of years. ITK serves Inuit across all four regions of Inuit Nunangat, advancing Inuit unity and self-determination, and the interests and wellbeing of Inuit communities. ITK is responsible for coordinating the National Strategy’s implementation. In this role, ITK works with the National Committee on Inuit Education (NCIE) and regional and community partners. Two years ago, ITK approached CRECS to collaborate in the development of an evaluation plan for the Strategy.

We started by forming a joint team of CRECS and ITK staff. We agreed immediately on the importance of laying a strong foundation for the evaluation so that it could be meaningful, useful and comprehensive. One member of our team, Heather McGregor, took the lead to review empirical and policy-related literature on the status of Inuit education. She produced a focused synthesis and an annotated bibliography to inform the Strategy and its evaluation. As a joint team with ITK, we developed a stakeholder map and traced the theory of change for the Strategy’s lead component. We later distilled the results into a logic model, and we developed and refined this model through interviews and group discussions with key stakeholders. This work highlighted for all of us the complexity of the Strategy’s implementation. It is taking place through numerous interrelated streams of activities and via collective action by partners at multiple levels and across a vast geography.

Our combined work served as building blocks to develop a roadmap. This included targeted, up-front recommendations to advance the early stages of the Strategy’s implementation, a set of priority questions to guide implementers’ learning in the near term, and a framework for a multi-phase evaluation. The CRECS/ITK team designed the framework to serve as a model to be adapted to each of the Strategy’s core investment areas and ITK is now moving forward with phased evaluations as the initial steps in a coordinated evaluation plan.

As members of CRECS on this project, we (Ruth Kane, John Sylvestre, Sarah Heath, Heather McGregor, Kate Svensson and Barbara Szijarto) have been privileged to work with ITK and NSIE stakeholders. CRECS is looking forward to continued partnership with ITK in support of the National Strategy on Inuit Education.

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