Auditor General talks education in Nunavut

Auditor General Michael Ferguson is in Nunavut discussing the findings of two reports from his office. The first looks into the territory’s education system.
Inuit children read an Inuktitut language book at a day care in Iqaluit. The Auditor General of Canada is in Nunavut discussing his report on education, which says Nunavut won't meet its goal of a bilingual education in English and Inuktitut by 2020. (Grant Linton/CBC)

The Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, spent the afternoon in Nunavut's capital yesterday, answering questions from MLAs about his report into the territory’s education system.

Ferguson’s office looked at the government's implementation of the Education Act since it was passed in 2008 and found the territory was far behind schedule.

"It underestimated the amount of time and effort required to complete some aspect of the implementation plan,” he said in a meeting with MLAs yesterday.

Ferguson said the Department of Education is not meeting the requirements to offer bilingual education up to Grade 3. He said more Inuktitut teaching resources are needed.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson says more Inuit-language materials are needed in schools. (Grant Linton/CBC)
The audit looked at five communities, in all three regions, in 2011-2012 and found that only one school met the bilingual requirement. The reason cited was a lack of teachers, but attendance is another issue.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the average attendance was 71 per cent.

High school students showed up for classes only 57 per cent of the time during the 2009-2010 school year.

And only 36 per cent of students graduated from high school in 2011.  

The report was published at a time when concern about education in the territory reached an all-time high, becoming the most discussed issue in the October general election. 

Ferguson cited the housing shortage, food insecurity, teenage pregnancy, and substance abuse as reasons why the system is performing poorly. He says both the government and parents need to take responsibility.

"If both parents act as if they have primary responsibility and the department acts as if it has primary responsibility then the end result will be a better education system,” Ferguson said.

Department responds

The Department of Education responded to the criticism yesterday.

“We are developing a database to gather data on educators' bilingual capacities at all levels,” said Deputy Minister of Education Kathy Okpik. “This database will include existing educators' training and language skill sets and where placements are needed to deliver language instruction models in each school."

The department says it is working on a three year work plan so teachers can provide support and assess students more often so they don't fall behind.