Iqaluit DEA makes Inuktitut mandatory in Grade 10

Board reverses decision made during last meeting

Iqaluit’s District Education Authority reversed a decision to keep Inuktitut as an optional course for Grade 10 students. A new motion passed on Monday night now makes the course mandatory. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

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.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

    Learning Inuktitut in school was never an issue until recently. In elementary school, locals would come in and teach us Inuktitut to the point we could read and write and in high school we had Qaliujarpait and Qaniujarpait. With the advent of technology everything that was past should be easier. The education system should be revisited and seriously an entity like the former Baffin Divisional Board of Education should be revamped to ensure schools in Nunavut have the best resources available.

  2. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Inukshuk is hardly the only school in Nunavut which has Inuktitut mandatory in the high school. Some have it all the way from grade k-12 because, long ago, they began working on the vision of implementation of Inuktitut throughout all grade levels, and having bilingual grade 12 graduates by 2020.

  3. Posted by Bert Rose on

    And I hope they also will make a rule that students will not be asked to complete word searches or cross word puzzles. Unlimited photocopiers are the death of student interest in learning languages

  4. Posted by Doesn’t the Department establish ‘mandatory courses’? on

    It has been my understanding that the Department of Education establishes what is mandatory in a high school program; while this idea has many positives it is also potentially a recipe for disaster: Inuksuk will have about 4 or more grade 10 classes so those two teachers will need to teach the Gr 10 course twice each semester – it is a full time teaching assignment; so is there a strong Inuktitut program at grade 7, 8,9? What happens if the teachers leave – will it then become optional again? Is it a first language or 2nd language course; what happens to the students who have never taken an Inuktitut course before? Many questions – a challenge to implement- good luck! Don’t do something that ‘looks good politically’ if you can’t implement it well.

    • Posted by “Has been Hunter” on

      But Inuksuk was GREC before and was the only High School in the region, many of us from different communities are GREC graduates and did learn to read and write fluently in both Inuktitut and English there.

    • Posted by Concerned Parent on

      As it is the Government of Nunavut that sets what are the required courses for graduation, and at this time, grade 10 Inuktitut is not one of the requirements, this policy being made by the IDEA is not enforceable. As a parent who attended a transition meeting at the high school this month, there was no mention of this change by the DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION. I support the instruction of Inuktitut in our schools and am pleased to know that qualified educators have been found to teach at the high school. However, if the Department of Education does not intervene in this matter, it is setting the precedent that any DEA in the territory can make any course it chooses as a mandatory for the students to take. Whether DEAs or principals like it or not, it is the government’s place to make this policy change. I would suggest that the Coallition of DEAs lobby to make this change. Finally, I have to wonder, are the resources available to properly and effectively teach Inuktitut at the senior high level?

  5. Posted by progress is happening on

    The DEA are elected by a community to represent the community. I am always confused when the DEA wants to consult the community. The community chose them to speak on thier behalf. Way to go Iqaluit DEA for making a decision without delay.

  6. Posted by Northern Guy on

    So a grade 10 student with plans to go on to a post secondary education is required to take 15 units in core subjects like: science, mathematics, social studies. physical education and English, which of these does the DEA suggest be dropped in favour of mandatory Inuktut?

    • Posted by Excellent point on

      That is an excellent point; this motion makes it mandatory to take Inuktitut in each semester in grade 10, which is either 6 or 10 credits out of a possible 40 credit load- so about 1/4 of the timetable for the full year; limiting for Science, Math etc. But once again, the real question is can they support this with the staff allotment? Is there a strong program in the lower grades? is the curriculum standardized and well resourced? Is it Inuktut or South baffin dialect Inuktitut, of course the language hasn’t been standardized yet, my mistake… a good concept but it better be well planned to put in place, otherwise both the students and staff will suffer in frustration…

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      They don’t need to drop any core subjects

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Unless the board decides to eliminate an elective option and replace it with the mandatory Inuktut course then they will most certainly have to drop one of the core subjects to make way for the new language instruction. Grade 10s cannot exceed the maximum annual credits so this course cannot be added to core curriculum without displacing an existing course unless of course they eliminate an elective option (which would go over like a lead balloon because they are usually the most popular courses).

        • Posted by Bricked up on

          I am with Northern guy on this, if your student is moving on to take academic programming, they wont be able to take cts classes and do the inu courses and mandartory aula, science, english, social, math and physed. They might be able to defer it until their grade 12 year, and if they are smart enough to do the high academic classes, they are smart enough to know that they can graduate without it. Their validation statment is government certified, not iqaluit centred.
          I wish inu courses had value. I wish we could provide engaging and engaged programing and instruction. What a waste.

  7. Posted by Concerned Nunavimmiut Youth on

    Nuunavummiunikkua sirnaanartujuat imaak uqausillarialummini tungaliaqasuut qallunaatitut sivulliujitsasutit. Ilinniavirasaallaat sivulliujingitut Inuktituurnimit. Anginirsaaluk Nunavimmi Nunavut, Inungillu amisuunirsait.
    Qaliujaarpaititut allaqunga qaritaujartaga Qaniujaarpaititut allaqajangimat, suurlu Allagutitsaqaraluartilugu qaritaujaapikkut iPad ngujumut nuitsirunnasuungummijut allagutinik Inuktitut, iNaqittaq lajauvattut Nunavummiutitut uqausiapiqaraluarsuti “Shliii, Shlaaa, Shluuu” Tammangikkuma lajausuut allagusinga Nunavummiutitut.

    Nunavimmili Kuujjuamit Inuktituurniup saturtauninga uvigartunut pimmariutitauralaasuungugunnaimijut, asingilli nunaliaguit avani tasiujarjuamillu Pitsianirsait Inuktitu suurlu Qallunaanut aulataunginirsalarialuummatali.

    That is my view, please know your language when you read, as Inuktitut should never be a second language, unless you’re not Inuk.

    • Posted by Over it on

      Like learning Inuktitut in high school, your comment is irreverent. How about they focus on kids ACTUALLY graduating and getting marks high enough to enter into post secondary. If you want to teach your children your language then teach them at home. Oh yeah, also discipline them at home because that is also not the responsibility of the education system.

      • Posted by Nunavimmiut smart ass on

        You want to continue living a colonialistic lifestyle, I’m sure even forcing your self to spread hatred and a visible annoyance of the freaking dying language in your region (which I’m guessing is Nunavut). This is why your territory has the most pointless debates as because everyone truly doesn’t want to speak a language no one thinks they’re obligated to do, disrespecting the family tree history upon generations and much hurt of the oppressed, you have truly never tried to speak a language only a lucky few in Nunavut have mastered. A language that out weighs many languages already, as Inuktitut was designed as a “literal meaning to every word/sentence.”
        No wonder Nunavut is throwing itself under the bus, everyone has adopted English as the first language which has caused generation gaps and elders losing the fight to keep their culture alive.
        Seriously, if you can’t speak inuktitut (inuktut in the west), why bother forcing a colonialistic language upon your people? We ain’t in southern Quebec where French “is a dying language”, we are living in the desert north of the 55th parallel where nearly every household outside of Kuujjuaq has no trouble speaking, responding and working IN Inuktitut, My Secondary 5/Grade 12 Inuktitut exam, I had to write an 8 page essay of a story all in Inuktitut syllabics under two hours, good thing Inuktitut is widely accepted, more than half passed the exam, the others who often have trouble as Inuktitut is their second language, went on to try their best as you need the credits to graduate, which Inuktitut ain’t no joke.
        I thought Nunavut was way ahead of Nunavik in many ways, turns out the old Englishmen have won their fight for simpletons and sheep in Nunavut

    • Posted by Bricked silently on

      You wrote this in roman orthography. Why? That is a western form, which is not inuktitut. Language is so complicated. So the writing system is not your common way of using the language i am guessing. Many inuit in the west do not speak or use the language, so effectively teaching it in school would be so clever. If it could be done. Good for you to write in the language, i wish more competent people could do the same.

      • Posted by Concerned nunavimmiut youth on

        ᖃᓄᒋᐊᓪᓚᓱᓕ ᐊᓪᓚᖁᔨᕕᑦ?ᖃᓂᐅᔮᕐᐯᑎᑐᑦ ᐊᓪᓚᒍᓐᓇᓯᐊᕐᖁᖓ, ᓯᕐᓈᕆᔭᑐᐊᒋᕙᒋᓪᓕ ᐃᓄᑦᑎᑐ ᑐᑭᓯᐊᕌᐱᕐᖂᔭᖏᓐᓇᕕᑦ ᐋᓗᒻᒥ <3

  8. Posted by Knockout Ned on

    Andrea Witzaney-Chown seems to think it would be “unfair” if this was implemented without proper supports. She’s thinking of the poor kids who may be treated unfairly by this.

    Better that students have the “opportunity” to learn Inuktitut.

    We see you Andrea.

  9. Posted by Consult on

    Which mandatory grade 10 course do they plan to teach in Inuktitut?

    Will it be Physical Education? Will it be Math 10? Will it be Science 10?

    Article 32 requires public consultation.

    Has anyone consulted the grade 9 students to find out what they want?

    Some people call it customer research.

  10. Posted by IHS senior on

    As a student at IHS and an Inuk, this is so unnecessary. Forcing another year of poorly structured, underdeveloped Inuktitut second language on to students is not the way to go. The Inuktitut second language program being a complete joke should be tackled first. Develop a proper Inuktitut second language program starting in elementary that can be built on every year, then properly build on it with speech and reading and comprehension tests.
    Forcing teenage students to waste another year watching Degrassi and doing word searches isn’t how you teach a language.

    • Posted by ᐃᓄᑐᐃᓐᓇᖅ on

      ᐃᓄᑦᑎᑑᕐᓂᐅᔪᖅ ᓯᕗᓪᓕᐅᔭᐅᒋᐊᖃᓲᑦ.
      Inuktitut should always be a first language for INUIT.

      ᖃᓄᕐᓖ ᐊᐅᓚᓕᒐᓗᐊᕐᕿᓯ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥᐅᑦ? ᑕᕆᐅᑉ ᐊᑭᐊᓂᒥᐅᑎᑐᑦ ᐱᐊᓯᖃᕈᒪᔪᐊᓗᑐᐃᓐᓀᑦ ᓯᕐᓇᒋᕙᑦᓯ ᐅᓪᓗᓯᐅᑦᓯᐊᓚᖓᕗᓯᑦ

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        That is in no way your choice to make. Inuit are, and always should be, free to give preference to whichever language they wish. In today’s society, it is in many ways a very rationale decision to prefer an official language such as English or French to regional languages such as Inuktitut.

        You don’t have to agree with that thinking, just acknowledge that it is a rational decision.

  11. Posted by Arctic woman on

    Excuuusee! My oh my, since the creation of my beloved territory and the promise of Inuktut education system by 2020, was I excited. Here we are: Since then, I have asked those in power how do we achieve this in so short a time? The teaching materials and books that have to be made, etc… the biggest being Inuk to carry them out. And personally, having watched this and suggesting “ideas and possible” solutions” were always met with “we don’t have money for that.” Yet the there is always money for travelling to other places for a lot of people to solve problems and in the end what the hell does it mean? Did it solve anything

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