Staffing shortages could delay Education Act

Public consultations on new legislation underway



A staffing shortage may delay the new Education Act that Education Minister Ed Picco had hoped to present to the Legislative Assembly by February 2006.

Manitok Thompson has been working on public consultations for the bill, largely on her own, since late 2004 when she joined the department as a legislation specialist. Her department is now looking at hiring three more people to help with consultations.

She’s hoping to complete community visits by December.

“If we had two teams, we could do it faster,” Thompson said.

In the meantime, Thompson has been busy traveling Nunavut to hear the views of parents, teachers and district education authorities.

People in Arctic Bay, Kimmirut and Cape Dorset have already been consulted and have provided their opinions on the proposed bill.

The first is that the name of the Education Act be changed to reflect the fact that it will cover only Kindergarten to Grade 12, and not adult education, college or pre-school.

Several other issues have also come up during either a full briefing to teachers and the local district education authority, or at public meetings.

Parents in Kimmirut said that course content for high school students is not challenging enough. Students there take general courses geared at vocational training while those who want to take academic courses to prepare for university must do the courses by correspondence.

They also expressed concerns that teachers who speak Inuktitut are expected to teach their language without any formal instruction in the language.

Parents in both Kimmirut and Cape Dorset support incorporating religious practices into the school system. The proposed bills allows for denominational school districts — either Protestant or Catholic — to be created where the majority of the ratepayers vote in favour.

Disciplinary methods came up at all three of the meetings. Parents say that suspension is not a good solution for students who misbehave.

Teachers in Arctic Bay expressed concerns about peer passing, or allowing students to remain with their age group even when they have not mastered the material in a given year.

The present draft of the Education Act says that children should remain with their age group.

These teachers also wanted to see more Inuktitut courses made available to English-speaking teachers.

The proposed legislation has now been sent to all District Education Authorities and community visits are being planned for the remaining communities.

Thompson is working with a steering committee that includes Peter Geike, assistant deputy minister of education; Jimmy Jacquard, president of the Federation of Nunavut Teachers; Johnny Ningeongeon, president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities; Daniel Cuerrier of the Nunavut Francophone Association; Bonnie Spence-Vinge, representing regional schools operations boards from the Kivalliq; a legal drafter; and two elders from the department of culture, language, elders and youth.
A working group travels with Thompson during consultations. This includes regional representatives from the regional Inuit associations, the DEA, the Commission scolaire francophone du Nunavut, regional school operations and the department of education.

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