Berger’s education proposals, at a glance


Thomas Berger’s proposed new way of carrying out the Inuit employment provisions within Article 23 of the Nunavut land claims agreement is ambitious, sweeping, and bold.

But more than that, it’s expensive.

And it remains to be seen if Stephen Harper’s Conservative government will agree to spend the large amounts of money that Berger says Ottawa should spend on the implementation of Article 23.

Key points

• Nunavut’s education system is a failure, producing graduates who are weak in both English and Inuktitut;

• After Grade 4 or 5, when Inuit students must move to English-language instruction, they’re forced to play catch-up for the rest of their school career, falling further and further behind: “In Nunavut this reinforces the colonial message of inferiority,” Berger says;

• Kids best learn a second language after they’ve mastered their mother tongue — in support of this Berger cites two well-known education gurus, Jim Cummins and Ian Martin, but he rejects the approach to multilingual education used in Europe, where children are often successfully taught two or more languages simultaneously;

• Virtually all qualified Inuit employees have already been hired by government or private business, leaving the Government of Nunavut’s proportion of Inuit employees stuck at around 45 per cent;

• Article 23 lies at “the heart of the promise of Nunavut,” and a failure to achieve its objective would be “fundamental breach of faith”;

• Right now, the GN doesn’t have enough money to fix the mess — only massive infusions of new cash from Ottawa, monitored by an audit committee, can provide the GN with enough money to revamp its school system.

The short-term fix: $20 million a year

• Expansion of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program in Ottawa: $1.3 million a year;

• Expansion of the GN summer student program: $950,00 a year;

• Expansion of GN internship programs: $40 million over five years, or $8 million a year;

• Community career counselor program: $3.3 million in the first year, and $2.6 million each year thereafter;

• Programs for mature students returning to high school or vocational training: $1.85 million in startup costs, $5.225 million each year thereafter;

• Scholarship program: $1.5 million a year;

• Total annual spending: about $20 million a year, which Ottawa would pay out in an agreement that is separate from the territorial formula financing agreement that provides the GN with most of its operating money.

The long-term fix: price-tag unknown

• The only way to make Inuktitut a language of government in Nunavut is to make Inuktitut a language of education in Nunavut, alongside English, throughout the entire system, within a revamped bilingual education program;

• The work of the famous Royal Commission on Biculturalism and Bilingualism in the 1960s could be used to justify new federal spending in support of the Inuit language in Nunavut;

• Creating a bilingual education system means training many more Inuit teachers than are being trained now, and creating new Inuktitut curriculum and teaching materials for every grade between kindergarten and Grade 12;

• Berger says creating a bilingual school system in Nunavut would be expensive, but he doesn’t know how much money it would cost — he says the answer to that question must be worked out between the GN and the federal government.

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