Nunavik faces French teacher shortage

Changes to Quebec’s training program results in fewer applicants


In Ivujivik, kids can’t take gym class because there’s no physical education teacher, while in Kangirsuk, Grade 3 to 6 kids who study in French find themselves in gym class all morning because they don’t have a classroom teacher.

Applications from francophone teachers who want to work in Nunavik dropped off this year, leading to a shortage of teachers, particularly in the lower grades, who can teach in French.

The majority of students in the Kativik School Board enter the French-language stream after Grade 2.

“In April, there were fewer francophones who came for interviews,” said Nuvvitik School’s centre director André Gélinas in a telephone conversation from Ivujivik. “There wasn’t anyone that met our criteria.”

Gélinas is putting out the call to universities in the South to see if a bilingual teacher can be found, who is able to teach gym in English and French as well as a couple of high school courses in French.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

In Kangirsuk, Tommy Kudluk, centre director of Sautjuit School, is also hoping the school board finds the two teachers his students need soon.

“We’ll have problems with finding substitutes too,” he said from Kangirsuk.

Kudluk is already dealing with many new staff members. Of the Sautjuit School’s 12 Qallunaat teachers last year, only three returned this year.

A KSB spokesperson, Debbie Astroff, said the board is still looking for five teachers in the French-language sector.

“The recruitment team is confident that all of these positions will be filled by the first week of September,” she said.

The difficulty in recruiting new French-language teachers is apparently due to changes to the Quebec French-language education programs.

The education degree program now lasts four years instead of three years.

“When students graduate from that program, they no longer have to do a probation year anywhere. They’re qualified teachers as soon as they graduate,” Astroff said. “What happened before is that we had a lot of teachers from Quebec who were going north to do their probation year and now there’s no need to do that.”

The KSB received about 300 applications for its 60 vacancies this year, with many of these coming from Ontario and the Maritimes.

There are 316 teaching jobs at the KSB.

The majority of the new teachers are in their early 20s, but Astroff said some new teachers coming to Nunavik are in their 50s, having already completed a career in teaching elsewhere.

The KSB is hoping the board’s increasing difficulty in recruiting teachers from southern Quebec will be offset as more Inuit teachers from Nunavik are available. This year, eight new

teachers graduated from the teacher training program, and two also received Bachelor of Education degrees from McGill University.

In 2003-4, Grade 3 in Inuttitut will be also available for the first time in schools, a move intended to boost the use of Inuttitut and reduce the dependence on southern teachers.

In Grade 3, “team teaching” will ensure students receive at least 50 per cent of their classes in Inuttitut. A maximum of 50 per cent of teaching will be conducted in French or English.

The subjects to be taught in Inuttitut include social studies, language, personal and social development, math, science and religion.

Depending on local resources, students will take art, drama, music, physical education and computers either in Inuttitut, French or English.

“The whole idea with the introduction of Grade 3 Inuttitut this year is that Inuit teachers will eventually be teaching in the higher grades,” Astroff said. “That’s the goal of the school board, to have Inuit teachers at all levels.”

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