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ITK: a big new national plan for Inuit education

“The greatest social policy challenge of our time”


Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, launching the

Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, launching the “First Canadians, Canadians First: The National Strategy on Inuit Education” report June 16 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. “This document is a blueprint for the education system we want,” said Simon, who chaired the national committee on Inuit education. “Our objective is nothing less than to graduate children confident in the Inuit language and culture, and capable of contributing with pride to the emerging opportunities in Canada’s Arctic.” The strategy lays out 10 recommendations, promoting parent engagement and fully bilingual education systems in the four Inuit regions of Canada. (PHOTO BY MARCEL MASON/ ITK)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released its national education strategy June 16, outlining a vision on how to graduate more youth who are “confident in the Inuit language and culture.”

The plan aims to improve student success in the country’s four Inuit regions by tackling low school attendance and graduation rates while producing more bilingual Inuit youth.

“The reality is that three-quarters of our children are not graduating from high school… and many of those who do, realize their skills do not compare with non-Inuit counterparts,” said ITK president Mary Simon at the report’s Ottawa launch.

“It is vital that we begin changing those statistics now.”

The report makes the following recommendations on how to improve education across Canada’s Inuit regions:

• engage parents in a media campaign to promote their roles in student success and the importance of student attendance;

• increase the number of bilingual educators and Inuktitut-language instruction in order to graduate Inuit youth who are fluent in Inuktitut and one of Canada’s two official languages;

• create a childcare initiative to expand access to childcare centres that teach Inuit language and culture;

• develop curricula incorporating Inuit culture, history and worldview;

• convene a national forum to address access to services that diagnose and support students with special needs;

• increase the number and variety of graduate and post-graduate programs available to Inuit;

• establish an Inuit task force to explore the introduction of a standardized Inuit language writing system and;

• invest in research and monitoring of Inuit education.

Simon calls the difficulties facing Inuit education the “greatest social policy challenge of our time.”

“Some 56 per cent of our population is under the age of 25, so improving educational outcomes is imperative,” said Simon, who serves as the chair of the national committee on Inuit education, the body that drafted the report.

Simon said the cost of implementing the many recommendations has yet to be priced out, but that they would require a “new era of investment,” including funding from the federal government.

John Duncan, the federal aboriginal affairs minister, who did not attend the launch, told reporters earlier this week that his department backs the plan, but stopped short of committing any money to implementing the report’s recommendations.

Inuit language education in Canada is administered within two provinces and two territories.

Next, the report calls for the creation and funding of an Inuit Education Secretariat to carry out the implementation and administration of the strategy.

National Strategy on Inuit Education May 31

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