Not all remote learning students are treated equally, says MLA
Fewer resources available to those learning in Inuktitut and French, Pat Angnakak tells Nunavut legislature
Concerns about Inuktitut and French students in Iqaluit having different levels of access to online learning resources than English school students came up in the legislative assembly on Thursday.
Pat Angnakak, the MLA for Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu, said constituents with multiple children attending kindergarten and elementary school in different languages have reported different levels of support while learning remotely.
“It has been brought to my attention that students who are in Inuktitut language kindergarten classes are receiving minimal materials in their take-home packages compared to students in the French or English streams,” she said.
She asked Education Minister David Joanasie how the department makes sure at-home learning packages are equitable no matter which language stream students are in.
In response, Joanasie said it doesn’t matter which language students are learning.
“We’re using the same material that the education program provides,” he said.
In terms of Inuktitut-speaking kindergarteners receiving less learning material than their counterparts, Joanasie said he had not heard this concern but would like to look into it further.
He also suggested concerned parents or guardians speak with teachers or school principals to make sure they’re getting the work packages they’re supposed to.
Angnakak said one of her constituents told her their child, who is in the Inuktitut stream at school, has had no opportunities for online contact with their teacher and no access to the online platform Edsby, “even though these supports seemed to be available to other students.”
Edsby is the virtual schooling platform used by Nunavut schools.
Joanasie said he will bring up the issue at an upcoming meeting with the local district education authority.
In terms of who has access to Edsby, Joanasie clarified that it can be used for all grades, but the department has prioritized high schoolers because of a lack of resources.
He said teachers of kindergarten and elementary students are relying on printed learning packages.
High schoolers have a different set of challenges, with unequal internet access at home and only Grade 11 and 12 students being provided with devices.
Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak asked the minister about the 5,000 devices the Department of Education has purchased for students across the territory.
Of those 5,000, about a third are now in the hands of students and staff, according to Joanasie.
He said 1,435 iPads and internet sticks have been distributed to Grade 11 and 12 students across the territory and 214 laptops have gone to staff, totalling 1,649 devices.
Another 980 devices were supposed to go out to Grade 10 students by the end of March.
With each device, the department provides an internet stick with access to 10 GB per month.
In an interview on May 17, Inuksuk high school’s vice-principal Craig MacGregor said his school in Iqaluit has provided some extra devices to students considered high need on top of the ones from the GN.
Still, he said many students don’t have access to devices or the internet and some teachers use their personal internet to provide online learning.
Access to online learning came up in the legislative assembly as well, during Simailak and Joanasie’s exchange.
Joanasie denied there has been much in terms of challenges in this area.
“I think there have been some minor hiccups around adjusting to [at-home learning],” he said. “Those are being addressed on a case-by-case basis.”
He said school staff are supporting students and parents with tech issues.
As a COVID-19 outbreak in Iqaluit seems to be winding down, schools reopened in the city with a blend of in-person and online learning Thursday.