ᑖᓐ ᑳ ᐄᔑ ᒥᔅᑯᐧᐋᐦᑖᑲᓅᐦᒡ ᐙᐱᒫᑯᔥᑐᐃ

ALNA Report - Whapmagoostui

Whapmagoostui is the northernmost Cree community, located at the mouth of the Great Whale River on the coast of Hudson Bay, Quebec. This community has many unique aspects, including its remote location and the population’s proximity to the Inuit of Kuujjuarapik. It is important that we take a local, community-first approach to understanding the adult education needs and ambitions Whapmagoostui.

The population of Whapmagoostui embraced the Adult Learning Needs Assessment (ALNA), with nearly half of 15-45-year-olds participating in our surveys. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share the insights from this study with the community through this website, and we look forward to working collaboratively to respond to this data.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment surveyed 269 Whapmagoostui Eeyouch.

Most of those surveyed (233 participants) were aged 15-45.

13 community members and 2 employers also participated in qualitative interviews.

This sample size provides us with a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of 4.7%, making the ALNA a very reliable source of data on Whapmagoostui community members.

Key Takeaways

Whapmagoostui Eeyouch care about education

All community members who took our surveys (100%) agreed with the statement “Education is important.” In addition, most respondents believed that adult education (97%) and post-secondary studies (93%) led to better jobs and a brighter financial future.

Family is at the centre of Whapmagoostui adult students’ lives

About half of all young adults in Whapmagoostui have children, and intergenerational households are common: 52% of adults aged 21 to 30 have children, and 68% reported five or more people in their households. Additionally, interviewees shared that parents and family encouragement had a strong impact on their decision to go back to school. Creating programs and services that are supportive of students’ family lives is important for student success.

Cree culture has a strong impact on student success

The top three programs of interest to community members were (1) Cree language, (2) traditional knowledge & skills, and (3) Cree culture and history. In their interviews, many students also emphasized the importance of a culturally relevant education. SAES can respond to this demand not only by offering these programs, but by taking steps to make all programs more culturally relevant.

Willingness to move out of community may vary

Twenty-four percent (24%) of Whapmagoostui community members would no longer be interested in a program if it was not offered in their community. On the contrary, about the same percentage (28%) would be willing to live in another community to pursue their studies, even if they could not visit home regularly. In addition, 39% would travel for school if they could visit home regularly. Therefore, it is important that Sabtuan Adult Education Service offer highly in-demand programs in the community, while also advertising out-of-community opportunities to those who may be interested.

Community interests and employer needs overlap

The ALNA found a variety of programs that would meet employer needs and interest prospective students. These included Administrative Assistant, Heavy Equipment Operaitions, Professional Cook and Electrician. Post-secondary programs were also identified in areas such as nursing, accounting, teaching and social work. Soft skill training in areas like teamwork and communication were also in high demand. These results will be considered when selecting programs for Whapmagoostui.

Community Education Profile

In Whapmagoostui, 53% of women and 63% of men have at least one type of diploma. Many adults in the community are also interested in pursuing further education; 89% of community members are interested in going back to school.In fact, even eighty-seven percent (87%) of respondents with a post-secondary diploma or certificate would like to continue their studies, showing strong openness to higher education in the community overall.

Despite these encouraging signs, 58% of adults withdrew from school at least once during their education. Those who experienced one or more interruptions in their educational journey were less likely to have completed a diploma. Drug/alcohol issues, disinterest in school, problems at home, and pregnancy were the most common reasons people withdrew from school in Whapmagoostui.

Overall, Whapmagoostui Eeyouch value education, care about their culture, and are often motivated to pursue further education. However, personal challenges and lack of local opportunities often make it difficult for people to pursue their goals and build the future they desire. The ALNA provides us with a stronger understanding of adult student motivations, interests, and success factors, so we can build an adult education system that better serves the unique needs of this community.


The community education profile shows us where we are. Now, it’s time to find out where we can go from here.

Through our interviews and follow-up questions, we were able to identify success factors which impact current and prospective students in Whapmagoostui. Understanding these factors will help us to set up services and supports that help adults achieve their educational goals. 

We also found out community members’ program interests, and discovered how these interests aligned with community/employer needs (by reviewing CENA results from Apatisiiwin Skills Development and interviewing employers). This will help us select and offer programs that will support the community’s future.

It is important to note that any strategy we build must have a strong cultural foundation and a plan for continuous community collaboration.

These all must be considered as we build a local adult education strategy for Whapmagoostui.

Student Success Factors

In this section, you’ll read about the different success factors we’ve identified in Whapmagoostui. We’ll also share some of the ways we plan to respond to these success factors in our Local Adult Education and Training Strategy. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to share your own ideas and identify what improvements are most important to you.

Family Impact

For many Whapmagoostui adults, family members greatly impact educational decisions and motivations.

On one hand, pregnancy (36%) and problems at home (38%) are leading reasons people withdraw from their studies. In interviews, we found that young parents find it particularly challenging to return to school:

It was very challenging to juggle being a first-time mom and school. I didn’t have a routine. So, I left school because of it.

I had a hard time finding a stable babysitter. That’s why I (left SAES initially) to come home also.

On the other hand, children can be a motivating factor for students. Many adults who returned to school said that they wanted to set an example for their kids:

I wanted to get my diploma to have a better job and show my children that they can do anything they want. They can go to college when they finish high school, whatever they want with their life.

I always wanted to have financial stability and to be able to provide for my kids. And, I wanted to get a good education. To be able to work, to find stable work. To find a good job.

Support from parents, grandparents, and loved ones is another factor that strongly impacts student success:

My parents, my grandparents just reminded me that it’s all going to be worth it after. And, that I would have a better job if I go further with my education. They also provided emotional support.

My mother and my kids supported me to finish high school. My mom particularly helped with the kids or if I needed emotional support.

Overall, Sabtuan Adult Education Services must honour the role of the family unit in an adult’s educational journey. It is important that we meet the unique needs of parents and encourage students to reach out to their family support systems.

Actions Taken

  • Financial assistance policy includes amounts for dependants.
  • Public childcare coverage now included in financial assistance for parents of young children.
  • General education teachers often work to develop school schedules and assignments that work with parents’ lives.

Next Steps

  • Promote our new student financial assistance.
  • Further consider family dynamics as part of our Wellness Services/student support services.
  • Provide mentors for those without close family ties.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can you help students in your family feel supported and encouraged?

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Teaching & School Environment

All of the Whapmagoostui community members surveyed agreed with the statement that “Education is important.” Despite this fact, 58% of respondents said they withdrew from school at least once. Interestingly, over one third of students said they withdrew in Secondary V, suggesting many students leave school fairly far into their educational journey. In addition, 30% of students say that disinterest and boredom was one of the reasons they left school.

This leads to some important questions about how the school environment could better engage and support students. It is important for Sabtuan Adult Education Services to understand how their teaching, schedules, curriculum and other factors might impact the success of students going back to school. The research revealed several areas of importance for the teaching and school environment in Whapmagoostui:

Inspired teaching. Adult education students reported that their teachers were knowledgeable (97%), easy to communicate with (90%) and understanding of the Cree culture (77%). This plays an important role in their success at every stage in their education:

What I like the most at SAES? The way our teacher put it together it was really easy for us to learn each book.

One of my teachers never gave up on me. Even when I gave him a hard time. He would always push me to do better and to do my work. If I got frustrated and didn’t want to do my work, he would explain everything so well. He didn’t stop encouraging me.

Supportive peers. The attitude and relationship between students proved to be an important success factor in Whapmaoogstui. Small class sizes and positive relationships with other students was seen as a positive element:

I enjoy the small classes. I enjoy that it’s smaller because we get more help.

The support from our teacher and my classmates (is great). We help each other. We give each other rides after classes. And our teacher gives us breaks to go for a coffee run.

However, when other students were not engaged in their schooling, it proved challenging for others:

I thought the teachers were good. I think it was more the other students that were not eager to learn. It was distracting. The students were not engaged to learn, they would distract the teacher.

Students are clearly very influenced by their peers, and encouraging, positive relationships with others made a significant difference in overall success.

Cree language. Students said they enjoyed speaking Cree in class, learning how to type in syllabics, and cultural lessons. Closeness to Cree language and culture can also improve student confidence, peer relationships, and engagement.

The Cree culture and language motivated me, yes, to stay in school… When we are there, we often make each other laugh. That’s what really helps me, that we can all laugh together. Like, we have fun in the class. We speak Cree in class.

Our teacher has said that she would show us how to type in Cree. I really liked that.

By empowering teachers and providing them with cultural resources and programs, we can build on our existing strengths to further engage and interest adult students.

Actions Taken

  • Ee-Es-Kwee-Dow (My Learning Plan) course for adult students.
  • Began development of Cree-Centric Teaching and Learning Framework.

Next Steps

  • Roll out Cree-Centric Teaching and Learning Framework
  • Offer more resources to support teachers in culturally relevant, inspired teaching.

Your Response

It’s your turn! What are other ways we work together to improve the learning experience for Whapmagoostui students?

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Personal Challenges & Confidence

There are many outside influences, such as parents, teachers, and school environment, that can impact student success. However, in Whapmagoostui, a student’s personal circumstances also proved to be very important. Our surveys found that 44% of students in Whapmagoostui withdrew from their studies due to drugs and alcohol. This was the most common reason for leaving school. Additionally, 30% of students said boredom and disinterest played a role in their decision to leave.

In interviews, Whapmagoostui community members mentioned how personal confidence, independence, and motivation impacted their educational journeys:

My mother always helped me. Especially financially. I was really supported. It was my fault that I didn’t finish.

I don’t know how it could be integrated, but like for people to be more independent, to have more confidence in themselves...

Most interviewees said this success factor was a personal responsibility - however, we know that support and services can make a real difference! Increased counselling and extra help for students with learning challenges are two ways the Cree School Board and Sabtuan Adult Education Services can better support the independence, motivation, and confidence of Whapmagoostui students:

You know how some people take longer to learn or understand something? They should consider having a separate group for those types of students. That way, time could be spent to help them understand and learn at their own pace.

With my own experience, I went through a lot, all the challenges that comes with it so to keep pushing forward and not to give up… If there was more guidance and counselling to help support the students, how they are or ask them if they need more support with any area.

This success factor also shows us the importance of our partnership with the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) and the community at large. Since mental health, substance abuse, and issues at home are common challenges faced by students, a holistic approach and strong community ties will be critical in helping students can achieve their educational goals.

Actions Taken

  • Established drop-in counselling for students through Sabtuan’s Wellness Services.
  • Created new Student Success positions, including Special Needs Education Consultant.

Next Steps

  • Improve partnership with CBHSSJB and community to support student needs holistically.

Your Response

It’s your turn! How can the community support student confidence and motivation?

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Job & Financial Considerations

For 28% of community members who withdrew from their studies, finances played a role in the decision to leave school. In addition, needing to financially support the family was the number one reason why respondents did not go back to school.

The data shows us that that many potential students struggle with the decision to leave their jobs in order to go back to school, even if education could lead to a better job in the future:

Is there something preventing me from going back to school? My working hours, my bills that I need to pay, I have lots of bills.

I almost dropped out because they started just before Christmas and that’s like half of my pay. So it would not have been financially viable for me to continue going to school.

On the other hand, finances can be a major motivation to go back to school. Qualifying for a job or gaining financial independence are common reasons people enroll in adult education:

It will help you to get educated. It’s very hard to find a job without a diploma. It will really help to obtain a diploma.

To get my diploma to eventually have a good job. To be able to provide for my children also.

This data shows the importance of supporting students financially. Sabtuan Adult Education Services began offering financial assistance to adult education students in 2020, so this should play an important role in promoting this success factor.

Our partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development and employers is also important as we work to help community members access training, financial stability, and the opportunity to return to school.

Actions Taken

  • Launched financial assistance program in 2020-21 school year.
  • Formalized partnership with Apatisiiwin Skills Development.

Next Steps

  • Increase employer partnerships to ensure workers are able to return to school without giving up their jobs.
  • Consider offering financial management workshops.
  • Grow relationship with Apatisiiwin Skills Development to support transition to the workplace.

Your Response

It’s your turn! What else could help eliminate financial barriers to education in Whapmagoostui?

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Program Recommendations

Many potential adult education students in Whapmagoostui are interested in deepening their cultural knowledge and skills, with the majority showing interest in culturally relevant programs. This interest aligns with our internal priorities at Sabtuan Adult Education Services. We are working to offer more culture/language programs and to increase the cultural relevance of all programs and services.

Other top vocational programs included Professional Cooking, Carpentry, Starting a Business, and Early Childhood Educator. Interestingly, many of the most popular programs for community members were also the most in-demand for employers, showing strong alignment between community and employer needs.

By combining community member data with employer feedback from Apatisiiwin Skills Developments’ CENA study, we were able to identify the highest-demand programs in Whapmagoostui at present. This list of programs is by no means comprehensive, nor is it an official list of programs we are committed to offering. Other considerations, like feasibility of offering the program locally and the cultural component, will also be considered.

The Adult Learning Needs Assessment considered data from Apatisiiwin Skills Development (ASD)’s Community Employment Needs Assessment (CENA) in its program analysis. We also interviewed employers to follow up on the data. If you would like further information on the employment outlook in Whapmagoostui, please contact ASD.

Additional Workshops/non-credited training

Employers and community members also mentioned several other skills which adult education could impart. These may or may not be part of a formal diploma program:

  • Leadership/management training
  • Teamwork
  • Written communication
  • French language
  • Computer skills

Employers noted that, in addition to local training opportunities, finding the time to train employees is another significant challenge.

Time management, I think they need classes like that. People are always late. Also, maybe to add more choices of course, like Home Economics. More realistic courses like Accounting or Budgeting. To prepare them for going out on their own.
- Community member without a diploma

Program Delivery

The location of an educational program was very important in Whapmagoostui. Twenty-four percent (24%) of community members would no longer be interested in a program if it was located outside of the community. However, a larger percentage (39%) would study out of community if they could visit home regularly. Therefore, it is important that we find ways to make programs in other communities accessible to Whapmagoostui Eeyouch.

Another way to provide education is through technology. If a program of interest was not offered in their community, 74% of respondents would be open to taking a course either fully or partially online. Most people preferred a combination of online learning and in-person learning. As Sabtuan Adult Education Services has significantly increased its digital capacity over the past year, these are options we could explore to serve more students.

I would have probably finished my studies if they were in my community.
— Community member without a diploma

More information on program delivery can be found in the Community Education Profile.

Note: ALNA data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. Online learning readiness may have been impacted by recent events.

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