Inuktitut digital library aims to improve early education for Inuit

The new Katiqsugat database provides free access to a host of educational materials from across Inuit Nunangat, but early childhood educators say more help is needed.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's Katiqsugat database collects materials from Nunavik, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, N.W.T.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada's national Inuit organization, says it hopes a new online library of early childhood education materials will help promote traditional teachings and the development of Inuit language skills. (CBC)

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is aiming to connect Inuktitut parents and educators with early childhood education materials in their language with its new Katiqsugat: Inuit Early Learning Resources database. 

The digital library provides free access to learning materials like games, songs, stories and research, gathered from every Inuit region in Canada. 

"I know that a lot of people are desperate for that material," says ITK President Terry Audla. 

"There's not a lot of material on there, but what we're hoping is that everyone across Inuit Nunangat will start depositing or putting in the material that they have there."

The materials are also meant to be culturally relevant, so that ideas and concepts are presented "in such a way that it introduces to the child the importance of language and culture."

Audla says "at that age they're most receptive to that type of material."

ITK, Canada's national inuit organization, has not developed any of the materials, but it has collected the items from Inuit educators across Canada. 

"What we're doing is making it easier, so that whatever's been developed in say Nunatsiavut is easily and readily available to those in Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit." 

'Resources are needed'

In Baker Lake, Christine Aylward says Inuktitut learning materials are hard to find and a digital library sounds like a good idea. 

"To be honest with you, the only Inuit material we have here to do with children, is ... flashcards," said Aylward, the manager of Baker Lake Daycare. "We kind of make them ourself."

Aylward says the centre's 18 to 24 children use English materials 90 per cent of the time.

But she also says relying on online resources may pose a problem for small daycares and head start programs, since paper, ink and other printing supplies are very expensive.

"When we run out, it takes so long to get our supplies."

While Audla says the database of materials is meant to help children get a strong foundation in Inuktitut for their future education, more needs to be done to support early childhood education for all Inuit. 

"Obviously more money and resources are needed," said Audla, "so that [educators] have the infrastructure that they sorely need to ensure that the best education is given to our children."

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