Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut November 19, 2015 - 12:40 pm

Nunavut’s single language of instruction should be Inuktut, Inuit org says

"The first language of instruction must and should be Inuktut”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Education Minister Paul Quassa and Premier Peter Taptuna, seated, at Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit March 21, 2014, announcing that Nunavut will take curriculum materials from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to teach literacy, science and math. “We have heard from parents and communities that they want our students to develop the math, science and literacy skills they need to successfully pursue post-secondary studies, or find satisfying and challenging employment,” Quassa said. This week, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said the GN should use Inuktut as its single language of instruction, it it chooses to adopt a single-language model for Nunavut schools. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Education Minister Paul Quassa and Premier Peter Taptuna, seated, at Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit March 21, 2014, announcing that Nunavut will take curriculum materials from the Northwest Territories and Alberta to teach literacy, science and math. “We have heard from parents and communities that they want our students to develop the math, science and literacy skills they need to successfully pursue post-secondary studies, or find satisfying and challenging employment,” Quassa said. This week, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said the GN should use Inuktut as its single language of instruction, it it chooses to adopt a single-language model for Nunavut schools. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

If the Nunavut legislative assembly amends the Education Act to provide a single, standardized model for bilingual education in all schools, then the single language of instruction should be Inuktut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said Nov. 17 in a release.

“The majority of Nunavut’s population are Inuit, therefore the language of instruction should be in the majority’s spoken language. In this case, the first language of instruction must and should be Inuktut,” NTI vice president James Eetoolook said.

NTI issued the statement in reaction to the final report — tabled earlier this month — of the Nunavut legislature’s special committee to review the Education Act.

Nunavut’s education minister, Paul Quassa, sat as a member of that committee, which was chaired by Iqaluit-Tasiluk MLA George Hickes and Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak.

Their report recommended the Government of Nunavut focus only on goals that are “practical, realistic and attainable” and recommended either amending or deleting deadlines in the current law that call for a fully bilingual Inuktut-English school system by 2019-20.

They also recommended a “single language of instruction model” for all Nunavut schools.

The committee didn’t specify which language, but elsewhere in their report they acknowledge there aren’t enough qualified Inuktut speaking teachers to create a system of bilingual instruction from kindergarten to Grade 12.

By elimination, that leaves English as they only viable language of instruction.

NTI, however, insists the main language of instruction should be Inuktut, and wants more clarification on the issue from Quassa.

NTI also said they’re not sure right now if they support the MLAs’ proposal to remove revise, amend or delete deadlines in the Education Act for creating a kindergarten to Grade 12 system in Inuktut and English by 2020.

“NTI would not support this proposal unless the Department of Education involved all stakeholders in this process and factored in all Inuit language rights in deciding on next steps,” the NTI release said.

Right now, the Nunavut Education Act says a fully bilingual system is supposed to be created by 2020 — that would include numerous subjects from kindergarten to Grade 12 that would be taught in the Inuit language.

But two years ago, the Auditor General of Canada said this goal is impossible to meet right now, mainly due to a severe shortage of qualified bilingual teachers.

In 2007, NTI said Nunavut’s language laws should guarantee that 80 per cent of the curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12 be taught in the Inuit language and that every high school graduate be proficient in the Inuit language.

The MLA special committee said, however, that the school system is “too important to be driven primarily by political idealism.”

Sandra Inutiq, the Nunavut languages commissioner, criticized the special committee for emphasizing “a strong academic foundation” instead of Inuit language, culture and history.

That, she said, is a “continuation of a colonialistic idea that Inuit culture and language is inferior, and cannot be academic.”

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