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Education strategy calls for overhauls

NTI, GN stand together in plan to make more Nunavummiut employable

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

JOHN THOMPSON

Nunavut needs to overhaul its literacy, trades and adult basic education programs if many residents are to become part of the labour force, says the government’s new adult education strategy.

But for this to happen, the Government of Nunavut will need more money from the federal government, says Education Minister Ed Picco.

That’s a rallying point that NTI President Paul Kaludjak backs Picco on – despite disagreements between the government and NTI over other education matters, such as whether divisional boards of education should be brought back.

The strategy, authored by the department of education and NTI, is meant to overcome a troubling fact: three out of four students in Nunavut drop out of school.

And when these dropouts search for work, the biggest obstacle they face is not being able to read well enough.

To address this, the strategy proposes an aggressive public campaign to make Nunavut’s adult population more literate.

That would include encouraging government employees to take leave to improve their literacy skills – 60 per cent of GN workers cannot read or write at an adequate level for their jobs, a Nunavut Bureau of Statistics study has found.

The same study says 88 per cent of Inuit cannot read or write well enough to work in government.

This literacy push should put a heavy emphasis on Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, the strategy says. But given the severe shortage of Inuit teachers in the territory, this will be a challenge.

“We need to be more aggressive recruiting more Inuktutit-speaking teachers,” Picco said.

Low literacy rates are the main reason why Nunavut’s trades programs have failed to produce many graduates, the strategy says.

And trades have never been a government priority, compared to producing government workers and other professionals.

“Apprenticeship and trades training had for all intents and purposes been discouraged,” the strategy says. “As a result, there are only 108 registered apprentices in Nunavut, and the current programs are fragmented, erratically delivered, and funded on a one-time-only basis.”

The trades school in Rankin Inlet is a step in the right direction, the strategy says. But more can be done, such as revitalizing the registered apprenticeship program, to allow high school students to earn a high school diploma and apprentice at the same time.

More could also be done to help students who fail their entrance, or “access year,” to a trades program.

The strategy also recommends creating a mature high school graduation diploma, to replace the existing general equivalency diploma. Mature students obtaining the new diploma would be able to access Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students, or FANS, funding.

Adult basic education courses would be improved, with more night-school courses offered for employed adults who want to complete missing high school credits.

As well, the department of education would be restructured, with the formation of a new colleges and adult learning division.

The strategy borrows heavily from Thomas Berger’s report last fall to the federal government on the state of the implementation of the Nunavut land claims agreement.

And like the Berger report recommendations, Nunavut’s adult education strategy will require a lot of money to implement, although the strategy itself does not contain cost estimates.

NTI is presently suing the federal government for $1 billion for not implementing the Nunavut land claims agreement. A major point of disagreement between the two parties is whether the federal government is obliged to pay for needed improvements to the education system.

“The obligation has to be pushed forward,” Kaludjak said.

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