For years, there have been concerns by researchers, communities, and Arctic leaders about what the next few years would look like if the youth of northern communities continued to be poorly educated and unemployed. There is a great fear that Arctic youth will be left behind the remainder of their generation and will become plagued with poor educational outcomes, identity struggles and diminished self-worth. Recently, the mantle of voicing these concerns has been taken up by the youth themselves.
This new generation of Arctic leaders, along with the older generation, have become increasingly passionate about the education needs of Arctic communities, and the need to graduate more students on an academic level on par with the remainder of the world. However, these groups have expressed concerns about this as well. There is a great fear that a restructuring of the northern community’s education systems could damage the culture, traditions and indigenous languages. In order to empower, without communities fearing the erosion of their identity, a flexible culturally relevant, and adaptive education policy must be put in place.
The theme of Trent University’s 2019 Rectors Forum will be "Made in the Arctic". It will provide a venue for invested researchers, academics, students and institutions to discuss a suitable way to establish an education policy that will empower northern youth, without being detrimental to the indigenous languages and cultures of the communities. The questions that will be addressed are:
- A Pan-Arctic Youth Engagement Session hosted in October 20, 2016 posed the question, "Why should there be a conflict between tradition and modernization? We shouldn’t have to compromise between the two. There is an interest to continue to thrive and strengthen our relationships with our language and culture." UArctic has developed a number of educational programs, exchanges, and opportunities to support regional post-secondary education. How can these programs be improved and made more compatible with local community development needs?
- In training the next generation of Arctic scientists, and in supporting the ongoing development of scientific practice in the North, the role of Arctic communities and communities of Arctic learners will become increasingly important. What are wise practices and benefits of integrating Indigenous knowledge, local and regional perspectives, science, and national policy development?
- How do we, as educators and researchers, build stronger collaboration among Arctic communities and ourselves in order to engage in true and meaningful partnerships leading to resilience, sustainability, and social and economic well-being of all Arctic peoples?
The UArctic Rectors’ Forum provides an opportunity for the leadership of its member institutions to come together and engage ideas on the theme of Northern Education. However, in order to facilitate a truly robust dialogue of this theme, the Forum must include voices from the next generation of Arctic Leaders.