Nunavut Arctic College cancels first year of teaching program this fall

College and community learning centres to hold in-person classes if no COVID-19 in territory

Nunavut Arctic College will not admit a new class of students to its teaching program this fall because of complications caused by its spring closure, NAC’s acting president says. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

(Updated, Aug. 14, 10:54 a.m.)

When Nunavut Arctic College reopens this fall, it won’t be welcoming a new cohort of students to its Nunavut Teacher Education Program.

The college announced its reopening plan on Aug. 11 after it shut down this spring amid COVID-19 concerns.

The plan outlines four stages of reopening depending on whether there is COVID-19 in the territory.

Rebecca Mearns, acting president of Nunavut Arctic College, said the college decided to cancel the first year of NTEP because of challenges caused by the spring shutdown.

“Planning for a new cohort, the hiring, identifying communities, and things like that takes place in the winter and spring. The disruptions and the switch to online learning in the spring meant that many of our faculty and staff were focused on ensuring that we have everything for years two through four to continue their studies,” Mearns said.

Last year, the program’s fourth and final year was run in Iqaluit and Kugaaruk. Students in their fourth year must complete a work placement to graduate. But because of the shutdown, those students were not able to complete the program, Mearns said.

“We’re still supporting the fourth-year students from 2019-20 both in Kugaaruk and Iqaluit to complete some of their course work that was disrupted during the spring closures. So, because we’re still working with those cohorts, we haven’t been able to open up a new cohort.”

The college is working with the Department of Education to secure work placements for the fourth-year NTEP students, the reopening plan states.

Students entering year three will follow the usual program, and students who successfully completed year three last year will start year four this fall.

Mearns said 12 people had applied to the program so far this year. All have been notified of the cancellation and have received information on how to defer their acceptance.

“The applications have yet to be reviewed, but if they do wish to apply for the next year, then we would support them in doing so,” Mearns said.

The program will take new students in 2021.

The program has been delivered in partnership with Memorial University since 2019. It was previously delivered in partnership with the University of Regina.

Teachers’ union says it’s surprised by decision

John Fanjoy, president of the Nunavut Teachers’ Association, said he first heard about the college’s decision three or four days ago, after he received a media request about it.

“I had no idea that this was occurring. Nunavut Arctic College had not reached out to the Nunavut Teachers’ Association. There was no consultation or even any contact that was made before they went ahead with this decision,” Fanjoy said.

Fanjoy said he believes the cancellation will further set back the Government of Nunavut’s goal to recruit Inuktut-speaking teachers.

“The stated goal for the education program in Nunavut right now is to try to have as many bilingual Inuktut-speaking teachers as possible in our education system.… This sets that goal back further by having a complete cohort not entering the program or graduating four years from now.”

Fanjoy also said a letter sent by the college to prospective NTEP students offers to redirect students to another program at the college.

“NAC has made the decision to consciously redirect prospective education students into other fields, which goes directly against the stated goal of the Department of Education, which is to produce more bilingual Inuit teachers,” he said.

Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act, states the education minister will develop and maintain a strategy for the retention and recruitment of Inuit-language teachers and provide the Nunavut Arctic College “with any reasonable assistance it requires with respect to its Inuit language teacher education programs.”

“NAC has made the decision not to increase funding … and add it to NTEP this year to make up for that shortfall. They’ve decided to cut programming instead of providing more funding,” Fanjoy said.

Students to be spaced two metres apart in college classrooms

Stage one of the college’s reopening plan will go ahead if there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory. Students will attend classes in person but will be spaced two metres apart from each other. Students will also have designated classrooms and seating for all classes.

That means some class sizes could be reduced, Mearns said.

“For our continuing programs, we’re ensuring that there’s enough space for all of the students to be seated in their classrooms.”

The college also saw a drop in applications this year, Mearns said.

“We’re still looking at what the overall impacts of that were and how that impacted our application numbers and enrolment numbers,” she said.

Stage one also includes enhanced cleaning. The college will be open to the public, but visitors will need to sign in.

Stages two and three would involve increased restrictions. Students would still be able to attend school, but in-person attendance would be flexible.

Mearns said the college is prepared for at-home instruction if the need arises.

“While many other academic institutions are going fully online, we do have some limitations as far as technology goes to be able to go fully online right away, but the plans are in place to ensure that classes continue should a case of COVID come to the territory,” Mearns said.

The fourth stage would occur if there were community transmission of the virus, and all schools in the territory would close for a minimum of 14 days and reopen on the advice of the chief public health officer.

A response from the Department of Education

In an email, the Department of Education said it “recognizes the limitations COVID-19 has put on operational capacity and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with the college on the refocused approach to the Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP).”

When asked how the cancellation affects the department’s goals to increase the number of Inuktut-speaking teachers in the territory, the department said the impacts “can be mitigated through our continued partnership with the college.”

“The funding from the Government of Canada, announced in September 2019, for revitalizing and strengthening Inuktut in Nunavut, is intended to support the Nunavut Arctic College’s delivery of additional NTEP cohorts and a laddered approach to NTEP in the near future. We will continue to collaborate with the college through these initiatives to build our needed workforce of qualified bilingual educators,” the department said in an email.

The department also said students who applied to NTEP this year can reach out to them at info.edu@gov.nu.ca.

This story was updated with a response from the Department of Education

NAC Reopening Plan 2020-2021-Illustrated ENG by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Siksik on

    Unacceptable. Once again, NAC takes the easy way out – this time using COVID-19 as its excuse or way out. Rumours of a less than satisfactory delivery of first year NTEP in 2019-20 have Indicated class cancellations were the norm. Unless 5 students showed up by class start time, class was cancelled. When 5 + showed up, independent study was assigned due to lack of present or prepared instructors. Some full-time students were able to hold full-time jobs – that’s how often classes were held. Instructors were mainly unprepared, pulled off the street on a contract basis 3 weeks at a time with no clear direction, curriculum or outcomes. The emperor has no clothes: NAC has been unable to deliver since 1999. Time to pull the plug on NAC and any hypocritical pretence that it can and does serve a purpose preparing for bilingual teachers in Nunavut, or bilingual Student support assistants or bilingual social workers, counsellors….oh, the institutional racism, pedagogy if the oppressed and hypocrisy.

    • Posted by Curious Minds on

      Are you telling us that NAC tried to use part time instructors to teach would-be full time teachers?
      .
      Why?
      .
      Does NAC not receive sufficient funds to hire and retain a full time instructional staff?
      .
      Yet NTI is siting on more than $100,000,000 for training.
      .
      Again, why?

      • Posted by Because it IS rocket science on

        Decades of planning and dedication by people with vision are required to develop and implement a successful bilingual teacher training program in a ‘new’ language (Inuktut). It is about money, but it’s not all about money, in that it’s not an inherently capitalist venture like resource extraction. The ‘bottom line’ is the future of Inuit culture and political power. As Canadians, we understand that this culture has value that can’t be measured in monetary terms. Nunavummiut are in a race against time. The preservation of the culture is dependent on educating Inuktut language speakers. While many of us have opinions about most education systems, I pray too that there are six people with vision (in Iqaluit, Regina, and/or St John’s) who are truly dedicated to the NAC program and who understand the implications of the decision to delay the new cohort.

        • Posted by No Shortage of Vision on

          It is not a shortage of people with vision. It is a shortage of the people to carry out the vision.

      • Posted by Same Old Same Old on

        not a lack of funds, it is an inability to lure and retain the people needed. In many cases these people don’t exist in the numbers needed to meet Nunavut’s needs.

        If they do exist in needed numbers Nunavut doesn’t have the ability to recruit them away from other employers.

      • Posted by Siksik on

        Yes, NTEP has in recent years routinely contracted instructors off the street to teach NTEP courses in 3 week stints. Instructors on contracts are generally people no longer hired by the schools or department. Read between the lines, please. Those in positions to know have long known this.

    • Posted by Really? on

      NAC has staff recruiting problems? Really? What a surprise! I can’t imagine any GN branch having recruiting or HR problems. /s

  2. Posted by Consistency on

    So let me get this right… NAC NTEP does not have any 2020 grads entering the schools workforce this Sept so their plan is to also ensure that in Sept 2024 there are also no grads to enter the schools workforce?
    How long has NTEP been happening? are there NTEP grads that have got further education that might be able to instruct at NTEP? Maybe that should also be looked into. Now that NTEP is partnered with Memorial University maybe each year an NTEP grad should get a full scholarship to continue on at Memorial to get their Masters so they can teach at NTEP.

    • Posted by World, or at Least Nunavut, Is Their Oyster on

      NTEP grads have their pick of jobs in Nunavut. Many get the education degree, and then never work in education, they are poached by other departments.

      Yes, their are NTEP grads with higher education, but the same situation applies as above. They have their pick of GN positions and can be found fast-tracked to ADM positions and the like.

      As other commentators have said, we don’t have sufficient numbers of suitably qualified personnel. The ones we do have have little incentive to work in NTEP when there are so many other opportunities available.

  3. Posted by No Moniker on

    I suspect there’s a lot of truth to the first comment here, in that NAC is at least in part using Covid-19 as an excuse to press pause on the struggling NTEP. That instructors are quickly hired on short term contracts, and that there is a lack of continuity and a disconnect from a larger vision does not surprise (if this is true). A lack of curriculum wouldn’t surprise either, speaking from experience. Though I would hesitate to call it institutional racism, as vogue as this phrase is today, institutional incompetence seems more likely. If these comments are true, and they do ring that way, it would be interesting to hear more from those with inside information and first hand experience, knowing this is taboo and the GN frowns on having its dirt exposed to the light of day. Unfortunately, that is probably the best anti-dote to systemic problems like these. What do you say, Nunatsiaq? I miss those old Jim Bell smack down editorials on the GN. I bet I am not the only one. Perhaps it’s time for some investigative journalism. You are the Fourth Estate after all.

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