Revised Education bill still short on language, culture: QIA

Grammar-based instruction, trained teachers the key to Inuit languages in schools



The Qikiqtani Inuit Association is not impressed with the home-grown education bill that the Government of Nunavut’s education department is now taking to communities across Nunavut.

“It’s a cut and paste job with more cutting out than adding on,” said Jaypatee Arnakak, a social policy analyst for QIA.

Arnakak would have preferred to see the community consultations now in progress based on the original Northwest Territories education bill — so that the views of Nunavummiut could be included in the draft.

Instead, the Department of Education is touring communities with the same bill that was released in 2002.

“It’s a bill that was rejected by the last legislative assembly, which to me indicates the level of planning that’s been put into this thing by the Department of Education,” Arnakak said, “and the level of commitment by the standing committee on education to such an important issue.”

QIA’s formal submission to the department of education criticizes the bill for weak sections on Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun language and culture.

In the proposed bill, Inuit language instructors are not required to have any technical training in teaching, or in Inuit grammar.

Section 58 of the proposed act says that, where no teacher is available, district education authorities may hire Inuit language instructors who they determine are fluent, can pass a test that the DEA administers, and who receive “orientation in teaching methods provided by the DEA.”

QIA’s submission on the bill rejects the notion that Inuit-language speakers are qualified instructors: “mere fluency in the language does not constitute suitability as a language instructor.”

QIA wants to see grammar-based instruction, where children are taught to break down their language into subject, objects and verbs, rather than to just read and write syllabics.

For that to happen, the government needs to invest more time and money into documenting the grammar and structure of the Inuit language — and producing curriculum based on this.

“Policy and institutional support should provide technical expertise and secured funding for the systematic documentation of each local dialect and IQ practices in Nunavut.”

QIA believes that Inuit languages are best taught in the context of traditional skills.

For that reason, Arnakak would like to see more policy and more administrative support for community-based language and culture programming. And he wants to make sure that local IQ and language experts who contribute to the classroom are offered a “modest but formal incentive to ply their craft.”

QIA also disagrees with the proposed policy that children should be advanced grades to remain with their “age group,” even when they are failing. QIA instead suggests that children should remain with their “academic peer group,” or in other words, with other children at the same education level.

The draft act says that the minister will make “every reasonable effort to ensure that every school has a school counselor readily available to assist students.”

QIA says that each school should have two counselors — one to provide emotional support, and the other to provide career counseling services for high school students.

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