More Inuit language instruction a key: Nunavut Literacy Council

“Strong language and literacy skills in the mother tongue… linked to development of strong skills in a second language”


(updated at 4:45 p.m.)

The Nunavut Literacy Council says the federal government’s support for bilingual education in Inuit regions, called for by the new Inuit education strategy released this past week by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is “critical.”

The strategy, released June 16 by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, contains recommendations for an increase in Inuit-language instruction, complemented by study in one of Canada’s two official languages.

The strategy wants to see Inuit youth graduating “confident in the Inuit language and culture,” ITK president Mary Simon said last week.

“Strong language and literacy skills in the mother tongue are clearly linked to development of strong skills in a second language,” said the Nunavut literacy council’s Kim Crockatt in a release. “This means that increased emphasis on teaching the Inuit language in the school system will help youth graduate with better language and literacy skills in both languages.”

But that will require support from the federal government, said the council, which promotes literacy in all Nunavut’s official languages/

The federal aboriginal affairs minister, John Duncan, has publicly backed the education strategy, but he stopped short of committing any money to implement the strategy’s recommendations.

The council says English has been favoured over the Inuit language in the territory’s education system for decades, leaving English as the language of communication in Nunavut.

The Nunavut Literacy Council’s research shows that Inuktitut must be favoured in the school system and at the community level in to achieve true bilingualism.

The council’s research publication, “Building a strong foundation: Considerations to support thriving bilingualism in Nunavut.” details its own set of recommendations to support language development.

These identified the need for a territorial dialect survey and early childhood and adult Inuit language programs.

Alexina Kublu, Nunavut’s language commissioner, said the June 16 strategy falls in line with the Inuit Language Protection Act goal to “revitalize the Inuit language.”

But Kublu said the success of the strategy hinges on the government’s willingness to implement both the territory’s language act and the new education strategy.

“If the goal of having bilingual education is to be successful the GN needs to be more transparent on where they are now at on providing instruction in the Inuit language from k-12,” Kublu said in a June 17 news release. “I think we would all find it useful to know if the September 2009 deadline for Inuit education in all K-3 community schools is now a reality.”

Kublu called on both Nunavut’s languages and education ministers to provide regular reports on the implementation process.

“I recognize that GN will need funding support from the federal government for this,” Kublu said. “Can we hear from the minister of education on where (her) department is at on producing teaching materials?”

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