Adult Basic Education (ABE) access programs for Indigenous students within Canada’s northern higher education:
: A social justice approach

  • Gabriel Ellis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The main research question driving this thesis is, “Does the Northern Adult Basic Education Program (NABEP) prioritize Indigenous people’s educational interests?” To answer the question, a documentary and thematic analysis method was used at three levels: students’ evaluations (micro), institutional policy and curriculum (meso), and national and global documents (macro), plus, a secondary data analysis of the Yukon College 2016 internal NABE Student Outcomes Final Report. I found contradictions at each level, which when amalgamated, do not prioritize Indigenous people’s needs. Instead, they prioritize national economic needs as defined by the government which appear to disregard the needs of Indigenous students and their culture. To reach this perspective, I re-framed the challenges with Indigenous education, which is widely represented as being due to the deficits of individual Indigenous students regarding participation and success in education and developed a theoretical framework. I was able to reveal biases in the NABEP by combining Nancy Fraser’s (2008) perspective on social justice about what is needed to address the legacy of colonial inequality and Bernstein’s (2000) concepts of classification and framing which were developed for and derived from analyzing prejudices in educational systems in Western economies. Combining these two frameworks to interpret my thematic analysis, revealed how international policy, national policy, institutional practices and the knowledge and curriculum, generated further inequalities. These power inequalities implicitly embedded in the type of pedagogy and curricula in the form of ABE (Adult Basic Education) that I studied, reproduced, or reinforced many of the injustices formed through colonial relations. Hence, NABEP which should have promoted broader economic, cultural, and political justice, undermined Indigenous people’s rights. I found the program restricted progress to university-level pathways, limited Indigenous culture and Indigenous knowledge and it did not provide knowledge critical for ensuring full participation in democratic society and access to higher level professions.
Date of Award22 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrea Abbas (Supervisor) & Andres Sandoval Hernandez (Supervisor)


  • Adult Basic Education

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