Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 10, 2017 - 7:00 am

Extensive changes coming to Nunavut’s Education Act

Bill to amend the act creates Council of DEAs, sets new target for bilingual education

Education Minister Paul Quassa answers questions from reporters after his colleagues in the legislature gave Bill 37, an Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, second reading March 9. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Education Minister Paul Quassa answers questions from reporters after his colleagues in the legislature gave Bill 37, an Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, second reading March 9. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

The Government of Nunavut tabled long-awaited amendments to the territory’s Education Act March 7, which amount to 101 pages of detail on extensive reforms to Nunavut’s education law.

The act is the product of several reviews and public consultations, which began after the Auditor General of Canada released a highly critical report on the territory’s education system in 2013.

In that report, the auditor general noted that Nunavut’s Department of Education was unlikely to meet its goal of a fully bilingual education system—as set out in the territory’s existing Education Act—that includes the Inuit language as the language of instruction alongside English or French, from kindergarten to Grade 12 by the year 2020.

The department has admitted it cannot meet that goal due to a shortage of teachers who can teach in the Inuit language.

The amendments to the act, known as Bill 37, establish 2030 as the new target to implement fully bilingual education up to Grade 9.

The bill states the department will also, “monitor the teaching capacity in Nunavut that is able, available and willing to provide the bilingual education program” from Grades 10 to 12.

Among the bill’s biggest changes to the education system is the establishment of a Council of District Education Authorities, which replaces Nunavut’s Coalition of DEAs, and takes on many of its responsibilities.

The Council’s members will be elected by district education authorities in each of the territory’s three regions, with three serving the Qikiqtani region (not including Iqaluit), two for each of the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions, plus one for each of Iqaluit and the French-language Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut.

Duties of the DEA Council will include training and support of local district education authorities and assisting the Department of Education in the “long-term planning of the public education system” in two annual meetings.

The act also revises the powers of DEAs, specifying that they will be responsible for providing “local community planning.”

The minister of education will establish curriculum for schools to follow throughout the territory, from kindergarten to Grade 12.

DEAs will decide on which bilingual language models of instruction their schools will use, as specified in education regulations that outline the percentage of Inuit-language and English or French language instruction.

The bill as currently written did not specify how the “language models” of bilingual instruction may change.

DEAs now have a choice of three language models to follow for their schools. Each specifies a specific mix of courses to be taught in the Inuit language and English.

The amendments to the Education Act passed second reading in Nunavut’s legislative assembly March 9. Bill 37 is now up for review by the government’s Standing Committee on Legislation.

“Certainly I look forward to hearing back from m the standing committee as to what their response will be in this amendment to the Education Act,” Education minister Paul Quassa told reporters March 9 at the legislature following question period.

“I certainly want to thank the public for all the hard work and responses we got. It took us over a year to go through all the public consultations and certainly we did listen to what the general public and all the stakeholders had talked about,” he said. “We took all those comments and concerns very seriously.”

But Nunavut Tunngavik’s president Aluki Kotierk didn’t seem so impressed with the new act.

In a statement released late March 9, Kotierk said, “the proposed amendments are window-dressing at best and reduce the right to Inuktut language of instruction. The proposed changes appear to offer district education authorities a choice of instituting Inuktut language of instruction in schools, but without significantly increasing Inuktut-speaking teachers, DEAs will not be able to offer this choice to students.

“The Inuit self-determination that is promised in our Nunavut Agreement will only be realized when Inuit children are taught in Inuktut and graduate from high school.”

Kathy Okpik, the education department’s deputy minister, plans to answer media questions on Bill 37 at a technical briefing March 10. Bill 37 includes amendments to the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act.

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(32) Comments:

#1. Posted by Interested southerner on March 10, 2017

Should your heading not read

“Sets new targets for “trilingual” education”

Nunavut did officially announce at some point that it is a Trilingual Territory???

#2. Posted by Blockhead on March 10, 2017

#1 Nunavut is officially a quadrilingual territory.

I’m concerned that this will only prove the impetus toward more watering down of education programs for educators within the territory. That won’t be recognized for what it is of course, it will be logically consistent with everything else inside the Nunabubble.

On the upside, no one from this government will be around in 2030 to answer for it.

#3. Posted by Interested southerner on March 10, 2017

#2 yes,

I stand to be corrected! Thank you!

#4. Posted by Inuk on March 10, 2017

The irony of comments 1-3 is delicious.

Southerners more concerned with their own situation than with the issue at hand. Remarkably consistent with the finding of the report on Inuktitut released a few days ago.

If you don’t like the prospect of more Inuktitut being used in Nunavut, don’t come to Nunavut.

#5. Posted by Blockhead on March 10, 2017

#4 I’m intrigued as to where the “irony” is in the above comments. For now I’m of a mind that you don’t quite know what the term means. But maybe I am missing something?

Also, where are the embedded interests in those comments?
I don’t see them.

Please, enlighten me.

As far as coming to Nunavut goes, well that’s my choice, not yours. Don’t you think?

#6. Posted by Question on March 10, 2017

Does anyone on the standing committee have classroom experience?  (who have spent time in the classroom over the past 5 years)? Please include the perspectives of our educators when implementing change that directly affect our children and schools.  They are the ones who see direct effects of any change implemented on our schools and can provide invaluable points to discussion and decisions.

#7. Posted by #4 perfect remark on March 10, 2017

Canada is a big free country and if I do not like what’s going on here with too much Inuktitut, I am from to go elsewhere where English or French are the language of choice.

Getting tired of 15 percent of the population dictating how we should live in our homeland.

#8. Posted by Alanis Morissette on March 10, 2017

# 4 and #7 Here’s a real lesson in irony, both of you lamenting the use of English over Inuktitut in Nunavut… but doing it in English.


#9. Posted by Inuk on March 10, 2017

#5 The irony is the obnoxious focus on technical gripes over the substance of the article, which is focused on Inuktitut education.

The new Education bill is already attracting criticism, as it should in a functioning democracy. Let’s remember to assess the bill not on what we want, but on what we can realistically achieve.

Ignore the trolls. Our land, our way.

#10. Posted by bubbleheads on March 10, 2017

#5 and we can expect you will wear the bubble symbol so we will know which bubblehead you are and where you come from?

#11. Posted by Tunngasugit on March 10, 2017

#8 nuktitusuunguvit?

#12. Posted by Bubble Tea on March 10, 2017

#9 Here are the candid observations of a friend who may just find your comments as equally obnoxious (unfortunately you have to put up with those in a functioning democracy, as you put it).

Details matter. You seem smart enough to know that, ostensibly at least. 

Yes, your land, your way…

So far, I don’t think that’s working too well for you. What do you think?

The most successful societies emulate, embrace and make their own the best practices from other cultures around the globe.

The least successful hide behind figurative and / or partially real walls in an attempt to preserve an imagined, idealized state that in reality has always been in flux.

#13. Posted by Tower of Babble on March 10, 2017

@#2 and #3

There are only three official languages in Nunavut. From the Official Languages Act:

Official Languages
3. (1) The Inuit Language, English and French are the Official Languages of Nunavut.

I don’t know if people think there are four because they are predisposed to thinking this is more complicated than it needs to be, or they just don’t understand the difference between a language and a writing system?

There are, however, two unique things about Inuinnaqtun - it’s in trouble, and it’s written with Roman orthography. Standardize the Inuit language and drop syllabics. Would help all around, including education.

#14. Posted by Putuguk on March 10, 2017

The Education Act both past and present is completely irrelevant to the significant fraction of Nunavut youth that do not attend school, or do not attend regularly enough to learn anything whether it be in Inuktun, English, French or Swahili.

To them, it might as well be written on snot paper.

Its like a Motor Vehicle Act that does not say you need a driver’s licence to to be on the road.

We had over 90% attendance when we had residential schools, classes 100% in English, and predominantly unilingual Inuktun speakers in the home.

Now the government is at least trying to offer bilingual education, there are K-12 schools in each community, and most of the parents speak some English, attendance has become a huge issue.

The law needs to address attendance. We need to have some (higher) standard of participation in education in Nunavut.

NTI and GN, what do you have to say about this real issue instead of politically sparring on language?

#15. Posted by watch and learn on March 10, 2017

#12 “The most successful societies emulate, embrace and make their own the best practices from other cultures around the globe.”  Québec disagrees with you and will fight you all the way.

Inuktitut language is identity, a way of communicating in life, a culture that has history from before the “globe” moved in.

A society created by the globe that move in and replace a culture absolutely do make their own the best practices of taking all they can get and leave the weak behind.

Inuit culture is not that society.

#16. Posted by Tower of Babble on March 10, 2017

@#15 Which Quebec are you talking about? The Quebec of Duplessis? The Quebec of the values charter? Or maybe FLQ Quebec? (but even that Quebec had a thing for Castro’s Cuba) Sure, those Quebecs exist, but on the whole Quebecois are fairly cosmopolitan, with maybe a little bit of Habitant grit for texture.

You say:
“Inuktitut language is identity, a way of communicating in life, a culture that has history from before the “globe” moved in.”

With the exception of Esperanto and possibly Valleygirl, that is true of every language on earth.

Inuit culture is what Inuit are living, it isn’t the nostalgic idealism of a minority or a coterie of southern bleeding hearts. If the language isn’t the vehicle for the culture that people are living, it’s dead.

All is not lost - the Inuit language isn’t as dead as Hebrew was. There is a path to preservation and revival, but it’s going to take work and unrealistic, sentimental or irrational diversions are just going to waste valuable time.

#17. Posted by qangattaasan on March 11, 2017

#16 The ones who are learned on how to waste valuable time through the use of unrealistic, sentimental or irrational diversions have slowed down the pace of achieving the vision of Nunavut.


#18. Posted by Question on March 11, 2017

1.  Dual models have shown drops in numbers of children enrolled in the Inuktitut stream.  How do parents and the community perceieve schools (as they currently exist) address the language preservation issue (without compromising what is set out in the curriculum to be taught at various grade levels)?

2.  As an education system, what role do schools play in teaching a language to children that is not/cannot be supported at home.  ... what does that school system look like?  Many argue our community needs an Inuktitut school…immersed.. fully and completely, all day long. 
This leads to so many questions. 
Who will teach beyond middle school?  How will we ensure our students can still apply for university if they graduate in a language that the rest of Canada cannot understand? 

3. we say there is no social promotion, but when was the last time a child was held back?  There are so many variables and dual model education complicates this further.. real conversations need to

#19. Posted by Question on March 11, 2017

Real conversations need to happen, and they need to include our parents, our educators, and our policy makers.  I’m not sure who has been invited to the decision making party, but I feel some were left off the list.

#20. Posted by Student on March 11, 2017

Nunavummiut are not interested in change for the sake of change.

We want change that will result in improved education.

Show us how the proposed changes will lead to improved education.

Not so many years ago families had to pay for their children to go to school.  In many families, both parents, all the brothers and sisters, and even the aunts, uncles and cousins all worked to save enough so that one child in the family in a generation could go to school.  There was no problem of attendance in those days. But with so many people sacrificing so much, there was huge demand that everyone involved in education do the very best.  No one settled for less than maximum effort.

Those were the days of my great grandfather. 

In my grandfather’s day there was one scholarship in the school. Everyone else had to pay, but my grandfather received his schooling “for free”.  There was no problem of attendance; there was a huge line of those waiting to take his place if he did not do his part.

#21. Posted by Not the DM on March 12, 2017

#20 Student:

In the days of your great grandfather and grandfather, schools were for learning academic subjects such as reading, writing, math, science, history, geography, law, medicine and foreign languages.

Today schools have become warehouses for children, almost jails for the crime of being young.  Very little time is spent on academics. They spend most of their time being exposed to commercial culture.

Children are born sponges. They rapidly learn anything they are exposed to.  Why is school so boring that they learn nothing and don’t want to attend?

School seems to be so bad that it could not be this way by accident.  It looks like it must have been made this bad on purpose. 

But who made it this way and for what purpose?

#22. Posted by #21 on March 13, 2017

It doesn’t surprise me how people blame inuit when essentially there has been a war against Inuit culture and language through residential schools. There is hope for inuktitut being used even nationally. In many communities inujtitut is strong and the only way to pass it on is by translating everything.  In every dialect. It is possible we need to utilize each other in our respective communities.  I think those who are skilled should start making as much inujtitutaerial putting it on paper on file before we all get hopeless. Act fast before it’s too late I know I will do my part.

#23. Posted by The flying Finn on March 13, 2017

#21 Your comment: “They spend most of their time being exposed to commercial culture…” is just ridiculous.

There are countless problems with education, indeed. I’d suggest that the Department of Education start looking outside of Nunavut for ideas and possible solutions.

Finland would be a good place to start, for that matter. The Finnish education system is one of the best in the world, and yet students are given no homework and spend less time in class than their counterparts in North America. While the rest of the country languishes in inertia Nunavut could be blazing a new trail.

#24. Posted by More Questions on March 13, 2017

#18 - Question.

You refer to a decline in the number of students in the Inuktitut stream.

What about the observation that, in Iqaluit at least, virtually all those in the academic program in high school were in the English stream throughout their early years; that, by and large, those who start in the Inuktitut stream don’t get into the academic high school courses and hence generally don’t get into university?

#25. Posted by Teacher on March 14, 2017

It is really scandalous how the dept. of Education and the GN have conducted themselves with the education act.

The lack of commitment and oversight along with incompetence.
There needs to be changes in this dept. and changes in management.

Starting with the DM and ADM.

#26. Posted by Questions on March 14, 2017

@more quesTions @teacher
Studies should have been done?!?!?!?  When dual model was brought in, studies should have followed it.  Language is important but it starts at home.  Many students in Inuktitut streams have families grounded in culture, but the role of homes for ensuring students are ready for middle school and high school English is slim and despair.  The schools currently can’t support languages as the community want it to exist.  We have to be realistic ..,conversations can’t be pipe dreams.  The future currently shows no teachers will teach Inuktitut past elementary (except as a language specialist) ... so those kids in Inuktitut at grade grade 5 make the invasive switch to English… and despite how smart they are, the schools don’t have a classroom situation in place where those kids can catch up to their English peers.  And so… the separation starts.  Parents need to make very educated choices based on the current system and where their children fall.

#27. Posted by Teacher on March 15, 2017

#26 that is just a poor excuse not to use Inuktitut in the school system, yes we use Inuktitut at home and it should be in the schools too.

What has the GN department of Education done to implement the education act since 2008?
Not very much in fact less, they have lost Inuktitut teacher since than, why no support, no resources for them to teach with and no curriculum for them to use.
To really be realistic the GN department of education has to get their things in order and actually do something to address this.
What has gone on since 2008 is scandalous and yet the Minister of Education has done very little to correct it. The DM is in control and it seems like she is the one directing everyone including the Minister on how not to use the Education Act.
With proper resources in place, materials and a curriculum, Inuktitut classes would be so much stronger and the gap would be much less. Works in other places where they teach in their language right up to grade 12 and University

#28. Posted by Sue on March 15, 2017

I think a extensive change in upper management is need for the Department of Education.

#29. Posted by Interested southerner on March 15, 2017

Perhaps the GN should consider a literacy program for parents to help them understand how the education program functions and more importantly know how to help their children with their homework. The learning curve starts at home.

I am all for Inuit’s to maintain their birthright language but in the end one needs to face the harsh reality that University level education in Canada is primarily in English or French.  One absolutely needs a minimum English or French high school diploma to go on to higher education.

That is the real fact of the matter.

It is time for a new focus at the GN Executive level. The current administration has taken it as far as it possibly can and simply tweaking the Act will not result in positive gains. It is simply putting more administrative powers in the hands of those who have not moved the yardsticks forward in the last few government terms.

To address all of the different dialects, the GN might consider community based language education.

#30. Posted by Inuk on March 15, 2017

#29 that is not the problem here, the problem is the education system and the lack of curriculum and resources to teach. That is the harsh reality!
With a strong foundation in your language you have the ability to learn any other language such as English in just as high level. This has been proven in other countries and it works just fine in similar places such as Greenland.
It is time for the GN to take Inuktitut seriously and start working and implementing the education act not dumb it down. A Inuktitut curriculum, resources and materials to teach. Support for Inuktitut teachers. Standardize Inuktitut and use it.

#31. Posted by Peter on March 15, 2017

#29 Inuit is plural so you do not add an s at the end. Inuit not Inuit’s

#32. Posted by Celina on March 25, 2017

I usually do not create a great deal of remarks, however I looked
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NEWS: Extensive changes coming to Nunavuts Education Act.
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