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ANNUAL REPORT ON THE STATE OF INUIT CULTURE AND SOCIETY
KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 12 EDUCATION IN NUNAVUT
The fact that most Inuit children in Nunavut drop out of school before graduating is a serious societal problem. Without renewed attention and investment to improve kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) education outcomes, Inuit will not be able to fully access the government’s obligations under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA), access benefits of economic development, and fulfil desires to build a fully functioning Inuit society through a public government model. The education system does not currently fully entrench Inuit language, values, culture and society into its administration and delivery, thereby denying Inuit from fully utilizing one of the most powerful formal resources for empowerment.While 72.4 per cent of the Inuit population in Nunavut stated that Inuktitut is their first language and 79.2 per cent of Inuit stated that Inuktitut was the only or main language spoken at home, only two schools offer Inuktitut instruction beyond Grade 3 and then only to Grade 6. A recent report by Thomas Berger asserted that one of the root problems in the education system and the cause of the failure of the Government of Nunavut (GN) to meet its land claims obligation under Article 23 is the lack of Inuit language instruction from K-12. In addition to Berger’s arguments, this report further asserts that the Nunavut education system does not give its students either an Inuit-specific education or a fully transferable degree, thereby limiting the ability for its students to succeed in both Nunavut and Canadian society.
Although much innovative work has been done in Canada, including Nunavut, on developing curricula that integrates Aboriginal and Inuit culture, Inuit culture in the Nunavut classroom still tends to be treated as décor and artefact rather than viewed as an integral foundation for all learning. In many classrooms, Inuit language and culture are considered add-ons by Nunavut educators from the south, instead of an informative pathway for curriculum and program planning. Even to Inuit educators, Inuit language and culture is only tentatively brought into the classroom, as they believe that they must first and foremost meet the largely British Columbia and Alberta-based curriculum standards inherited from the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).
Parents and communities have the right to control K-12 education delivery, and have asked specifically for this right in Nunavut. Unfortunately, one of the first measures undertaken by the new GN in 2000 was to abolish the three autonomous regional boards of education. This unilateral action went against more than three decades of government, academic, and institutional studies that consistently assert that local control of education is essential in order to improve the achievement levels of Inuit students. It significantly limited the control Inuit parents have over the education of their children.
In order to bring about a transformative change to Nunavut’s education system, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) makes several recommendations, four of which are fundamental:
1. Inuit society, language, and culture must be entrenched as the foundation of the K-12 education system in Nunavut.
2. Inuit language must be the principle language of instruction for Inuit students in Nunavut schools as an inherent right.
3. Local autonomy must be returned to the governance of the education system by adequately replacing the abolished regional boards of education with an equivalent structure.
4. Immediate and creative measures must be instituted to drastically increase the numbers of Inuit teachers in the schools.
This article comes from NationTalk:
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