Iqaluit DEA makes Inuktitut mandatory in Grade 10
Board reverses decision made during last meeting
This fall, Inuktitut will be a mandatory course for Grade 10 students at Iqaluit’s Inuksuk High School.
The Iqaluit District Education Authority made the decision on Monday night, at the request of the high school’s outgoing principal, Jay Thomas.
The move reverses an earlier decision made during the DEA’s last meeting on May 13 to not implement mandatory Inuktitut courses in Grade 10.
Thomas, who was not present at the May 13 meeting, proposed the idea of having mandatory Inuktitut courses at the Grade 10 level in his report to the DEA on April 29.
In the report, he said the high school was successful in hiring two Inuktitut-speaking teachers for the 2019-20 school year and, therefore, the school should implement mandatory courses.
Inuktitut is an optional course at the Grade 11 and 12 levels in Iqaluit.
His plan was discussed at the April 29 meeting and the vote was deferred to the meeting on May 13. A motion stating Inuktitut would remain optional at the Grade 10 level was passed during that meeting, with one member dissenting.
On Monday night, Thomas spoke against the DEA’s previous decision to vote down the motion and asked the board members to reconsider their decision.
“I’ve always thought that this DEA, and I still think that this DEA, has always been at the forefront of education for Nunavut. This is an opportunity to show the Department of Ed how it’s done,” Thomas said.
Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone, who was also in attendance on Monday night, strongly encouraged the DEA to support a new motion to make the course mandatory in Grade 10. He said the discussion was one he took to heart.
“I’m quite emotional about this topic. As an Inuk that lost my Inuktitut, I find myself feeling quite ashamed about it on a near-daily basis. Had I had the opportunity to take it in high school, then I might have been in a different position today.”
Lightstone also said he thought the discussion should be brought to a community level, instead of having the decision made by a “handful of individuals.”
A new motion was raised during Monday night’s meeting by the dissenting member, Alden Williams, to reverse the decision made two weeks prior.
“My concern is four or five people on a board were making a major decision to, as the motion was, [treat] Inuktitut as an elective only. To me, we’re in Nunavut and it should be a mandatory course,” Williams said.
“I think it’s tremendously important, in that all our kids have the opportunity at school to learn Inuktitut. But my experience has been that it’s extremely challenging for principals to get substitutes, and so programs may be offered that the students don’t actually get the intended teaching happening in the classroom,” said board member Andrea Witzaney-Chown.
Witzaney-Chown said her recommendation is to have an Inuktitut second-language coordinator, who would oversee Inuktitut education in all four schools and also as a “built-in substitute.”
“To test the waters of a mandatory program without putting the supports in place, like an Inuktitut second-language coordinator or some kind of certain substitute ability…. It’s not fair to the students who won’t necessarily be getting the teaching on a regular basis in Inuktitut,” she said.
Thomas said although staffing “has not been good” at the high school during the last year, including having an open position for a language specialist, the addition of two new Inuktitut-speaking teachers is promising.
In the current system, Thomas explained, Grade 10 students can choose to take Inuktitut in one semester but are not required to take it in both. Inuktitut in one semester can be replaced by a phys-ed credit.
The new motion now makes it mandatory to take Grade 10-level Inuktitut in both semesters. Students whose second language is Inuktitut would take “Inuktitut as a second language.”
The motion passed with two voting yes, one voting no, and one abstention.
The DEA’s next meeting is scheduled for June 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Inuksuk High School library.