Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 10, 2014 - 8:21 am

Nunavut’s Education Act to go under the microscope

“We are prepared to consider changes to the provisions concerning bilingual instruction if necessary"

DAVID MURPHY
Education minister Paul Quassa gave an update on the auditor general's recommendations in a minister's statement at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly June 9.
(FILE PHOTO)
Education minister Paul Quassa gave an update on the auditor general's recommendations in a minister's statement at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly June 9. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut’s Education Act is getting a once-over by a special committee of MLAs, but the education minister is indicating changes might already be under way — perhaps even to the act’s sacred bilingual mandate.

The act, which was created in 2008, requires a review of “provisions and operation” every five years.

David Joanasie, MLA for South Baffin, made a motion in the legislature June 9 to establish a special committee that will make findings and recommendations available to the house during the fall 2015 sitting of the assembly.

Education Minister Paul Quassa used his minister’s statement June 9, prior to Joanasie’s motion to establish the committee, to announced that changes to the act may be imminent.

“We are providing new literacy and assessment frameworks that support the approved curriculum to be used in every school in Nunavut,” Quassa said.

The GN is developing a database, he added, to track which teachers, from kindergarten to Grade 12, have “bilingual capabilities.”

“We are prepared to consider changes to the provisions concerning bilingual instruction, if necessary to provide the best education possible to our students,” Quassa said.

Premier Peter Taptuna made education one of the cornerstones of his mandate and indeed, during this legislative sitting, MLAs have frequently posed questions to Quassa, including Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq who wondered whether Inuktitut was hampering student’s ability to grasp concepts of math.

Education has been particularly topical in Nunavut ever since Canada’s Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, reviewed Nunavut’s Education Act and released a critical report in April 2013.

Ferguson described Nunavut’s Education Act as “perhaps overly ambitious” and said it will fall short of its objectives by its 2019-2020 deadline.

That’s due to a number of challenges in Nunavut, such as a lack of Inuit language teachers, housing shortages and overcrowding, and food insecurity, amongst others.

Quassa said in his statement that there’s a “clear indication of where we are currently in implementing the Education Act,” in the wake of Ferguson’s audit of his department.

And based on urgent recommendations made by the auditor general’s office this past November regarding safety in childcare facilities, Quassa said the GN has already changed some safety guidelines.

The auditor general’s report outlined several concerns which required immediate attention.

Quassa said the GN has completed inspections of all childcare facilities, and they all now have up-to-date licenses. He also said his department will help cover the cost of security systems in childcare facilities in non-government buildings.

In his motion, which was unanimously passed by the legislature, Joanasie announced members of the special committee reviewing the Education Act:

• Pat Angnakak, MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu; 
• George Hickes, MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk; 
• Simeon Mikkungwak, MLA for Baker Lake;
• Paul Quassa, Minister of Education and MLA for Aggu; and
• Joe Savikataaq, MLA for Arviat South.

Alternate members include:

• Alex Sammurtok, MLA for Rankin Inlet South;
• Isaac Shooyook, MLA for Quttiktuq; and
• Jeannie Ugyuk, MLA for Netsilik.

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