Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 27, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Auditor General to discuss education, schools report with Nunavut MLAs

MLA hearings will scrutinize government’s progress to date

PETER VARGA
Education Minister Paul Quassa and Premier Peter Taptuna, seated, at Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit March 21, where they explained changes to Nunavut’s education curriculum for the next school year. (FILE PHOTO)
Education Minister Paul Quassa and Premier Peter Taptuna, seated, at Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit March 21, where they explained changes to Nunavut’s education curriculum for the next school year. (FILE PHOTO)

The Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, will visit Iqaluit April 1 to meet with regular members of Nunavut’s legislative assembly for hearings on the two audits his office released last fall.

Education in Nunavut, and Safety of Schools and Childcare Facilities in Nunavut, both released Nov. 19, exposed weaknesses in the education system and safety problems at schools and daycares.

The report on education stated that the territorial government has fallen well short of its goal of achieving a bilingual Inuktut-English language school system by 2019-20.

Other weaknesses include a lack of Inuit language teachers, poor attendance, poor implementation of inclusive education and discrepancies in student evaluation.

In the safety report, the auditor general outlined an alarming number of fire safety deficiencies at Nunavut schools and daycare centres.

Ferguson and his staff will talk about their findings in public hearings of the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts, chaired by George Hickes, MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk.

The standing committee comprises non-cabinet MLAs. Their hearings are scheduled April 1 to April 3.

“Our hearings will provide an opportunity to scrutinize the government’s progress in addressing the concerns and recommendations of the Auditor General,” Hickes said in a news release.

And there is some progress.

The territorial government announced March 21 that they will make changes in the education department, starting with the 2014-2015 school year, which are intended to fix some of the shortcomings mentioned in the auditor general’s report.

The Department of Education said it has spent “close to $1 million” to update teaching resources in elementary and high schools.

This includes new math and science textbooks, a new literacy program and new assessment systems for all schools in the territory.

Central to the reforms are a new “assessment framework” and a new “literacy framework.” The department will introduce these in phases, starting with kindergarten to Grade 4 in the next school year, then Grades 5 to 8 and 9 to 12 in subsequent years.

Education officials will monitor student progress more closely throughout the year, based on a standard, staged process, the department said.

The department will continue in the future with more updates and reforms, said Kathy Okpik, deputy minister for the education department.

These will include a “review of inclusive education” and a new “safe schools initiative,” she told Nunatsiaq News.

“We’re trying to see where the gaps are for children,” she said at a March 21 announcement, “whether it be physical, social, emotional, or learning.”

The department highlighted the need for more parental involvement in their children’s schooling as a way to combat perennially low school attendance rates across the territory.

“Last year our attendance all across the territory was 71.4 per cent,” Okpik said. “That really hinders student success.”

The standing committee will also hold hearings on the auditor general’s 2014 Follow-up Report on Child and Family Services in Nunavut, “on a date to be announced,” the legislative assembly said.

The legislative committee hearings are open to the public.

They will be televised on local community cable stations and direct-to-home satellite service on the Bell satellite (channel 513) and Shaw cable (channel 289 classic /channel 489 new lineup) networks.

See the auditor general’s website for downloadable copies of the reports.

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