Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 20, 2016 - 7:00 am

Minister says Nunavut DEAs will find a place in new Education Act

“When the amending legislation is tabled, it will be clear that we have listened and worked to address the concerns"

STEVE DUCHARME
Education Minister Paul Quassa, with his deputy minister Kathy Okpik, tells a Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities meeting in Iqaluit Oct. 19 that DEAs, and the coalition, will be better supported under the new Education Act, currently being drafted. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Education Minister Paul Quassa, with his deputy minister Kathy Okpik, tells a Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities meeting in Iqaluit Oct. 19 that DEAs, and the coalition, will be better supported under the new Education Act, currently being drafted. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Education Minister Paul Quassa says there’s still time for the Government of Nunavut to find common ground with Nunavut’s District Education Authorities ahead of proposed amendments to the territory’s Education Act, which could centralize authority at the expense of community control.

Quassa, appearing at the annual general meeting of the Coalition of Nunavut DEAs in Iqaluit Oct. 19, told DEA representatives that the education department plans to amend its original proposals, using data collected from consultations held across the territory this past summer.

“It was made clear during the consultations that we did not get this balance quite right and that [DEAs] felt their role was too diminished,” Quassa said.

“When the amending legislation is tabled, it will be clear that we have listened and worked to address the concerns expressed by our education partners.”

Among the department’s original proposals, the amendments would have refocused DEAs into advocacy groups, shifting more responsibility onto educators and administrators.

But often contentious consultations held over the summer raised concerns that communities were losing too much local autonomy—and accountability.

In recent months, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has also made several statements criticizing the proposed amendments, at one point calling the territory’s education system “a national embarrassment.”

Kelli Gillard, chair of the Nunavut Council of DEAs, presented Quassa with a list of issues drafted by members ahead of his appearance.

That list included a plea for additional support for DEAs, who Gillard says struggle to fulfill obligations under the current Education Act, passed in 2008.

“[The Department of Education] proposed to take away DEA responsibilities in many areas, without acknowledging the fact that there’s been very little support given to DEAs to do what is expected of them under the act,” Gillard said.

The NCDEA demanded further research on attendance data: strengthened “language of instruction” teaching standards, with DEA consultation, and additional support for inclusive education.

“Please do not cut the DEA role out of this very important aspect of our children’s education,” Gillard said on inclusive education—a policy meant to address the special learning requirements of individual students.

Gillard called for improved selection of academic-level classes “even if this does mean less focus on Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.”

“But really, I believe that academics and [IQ] can be balanced. We can achieve both,” Gillard said.

Quassa told CNDEA members that the organization has a “tremendous workload and needs more support,” adding he agrees there are not enough Inuktitut teachers in Nunavut schools.

“We are seeking cabinet approval to enhance the role of the [CNDEA] to allow you to better support DEAs,” Quassa said.

“This enhanced role, as the department currently envisions it, necessarily includes more responsibilities in the Education Act and increased staffing at the coalition.”

Quassa added, “[there are currently] 168 student support assistants,” and told DEA members his department is “reviewing resources to provide more within the region.”

More nuanced information on the Education Act amendment changes were not provided, but Quassa told NCDEA members that his staff will be reaching out “very soon with further updates.”

Quassa promised the NCDEA that it would have another opportunity to provide input on proposed changes when draft legislation for the Education Act amendment is tabled in Nunavut’s legislature.

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