Another Step toward Understanding the School Experience of University First Nations Students in Quebec: The Case of Students from University of Quebec in Chicoutimi

By Jo-Anni Joncas and Constance Lavoie.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

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This paper explores the school experience of First Nations students who persevere to the university level in Quebec. Indigenous students have a high dropout rate, as only 5.6% have a university degree compared to 16.6% for the rest of the population (Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport 2009). The need to further understand the school experience of persistent First Nations students is crucial for this relatively young population that is growing twice as fast as Canada’s general population (Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport 2009). In this study, the participants were seven First Nations students, mostly from Innu nation, attending the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi. The comprehensive approach that we used allows for better understanding of how participants build and make sense of their school experience. The results explain how some specificities of school experience lead First Nations students to persevere to university. Our principals methods, the drawing-voice (Lavoie and Benson 2011; Lavoie 2011) and the focus groups, are inspired by indigenous research paradigm (Denzin, Lincoln and Smith 2008; Patterson, Jackson and Edwards 2006; Smith 2003; Stocek and Mark 2009). The drawing-voice method is especially presented because of its useful contribution to this research. The data was subject to a comprehensive analysis. The results suggest that participants are exposed to elements that have positive impacts on their school experience and have a specific conception of school. This increased understanding of their school experience can further allow the development of services tailored to the needs of this population.

Keywords: First Nations students, University education, School experience, School persistence, Comprehensive approach, Drawing-voice

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp.123-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 691.417KB).

Jo-Anni Joncas

Graduate Student, MA, Education Department, University of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

I have completed my first degree in sociology/anthropology. Now, I am studying full-time in a master program in education at the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi. I received a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada) scholarship for my research on First Nations persistence. This university has an important First Nations centre and many programs for Indigenous students. I am currently working as an assistant research at ECOBES research and transfer (group of research in social sciences about life conditions and needs of the population). I also work for a researcher, who is working with First Nations communities in the field of applied linguistics. I did work on the field with First Nations communities. I also worked for few others places as an assistant of research. My research director, Constance Lavoie, Ph.D, works on educational issues in indigenous communities and my co-director, Roberto Gauthier, Ph.D, works on the meaning placed of school in school experience of Indigenous students. I have also participated at the Meetings Mexico-Canada about indigenous and cultural diversity at Puebla (Mexico) in September 2011.

Asst. Prof.. Constance Lavoie

Assistant Professor, Education Department, University of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada