Action plan should take the place of Nunavut's stymied education bill, stakeholders say

Before the government can feasibly amend the education and language acts, Nunavut needs a plan to implement bilingual education, according to multiple stakeholders.

Standing committee decision to drop Bill 37 overwhelmingly met with relief

Aluki Kotierk, the president of NTI, is relieved by the standing committee announcement. She vocally opposed the proposed changes to Bill 37. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Nunavut needs a plan to implement bilingual education before amending the territory's education and language acts, multiple stakeholders say.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. greeted Friday's announcement that controversial amendments in Bill 37 would not move past the standing committee on legislation as "really good news." 

"I am relieved that we don't have to try and campaign against this nuisance of a bill," said Aluki Kotierk, the president of NTI.

Kotierk says she wants the government's focus to shift from reviewing the Education Act and the Language Protection Act to creating an Inuit employment plan that addresses teacher shortages.

A community-by-community survey, identifying how many Inuit teachers are needed to provide Inuit language education, would be less "daunting" than thinking about the problem at the territorial level, she says.

Gov't chose 'arbitrary' year

The 2008 Education Act calls for bilingual education across the territory by 2019. But as early as 2013, Canada's auditor general reported that deadline was unattainable.

"I think that's why there's been a push for the Education Act amendments because they're in fear that they would not comply, so they arbitrarily decided to push it to 2029," Kotierk said.

"2029 is an arbitrary year, when there's no Inuit employment plan to say that it's going to take 12 years to get enough Inuit teachers." 

Plan for a well-rounded education

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril wants to see a plan that prepares students for life after graduation. She's a parent and former member of the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities (DEA). 

"My biggest problem with [Bill 37] was what I didn't see in it, and I didn't see anything that addresses social promotion."

Social promotion allows students to progress through grades with their peers, despite their level of mastery of specific subjects.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril is a parent and former member of the Coalition of Nunavut District Education Authorities. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

"Right now if they reach the end of high school and they haven't acquired all of their necessary competencies, we just drop them off the edge of a cliff," Arnaquq-Baril said. 

The gaps between students means teachers can feel like they're teaching in a one-room schoolhouse instead of a single grade, putting more stress on teachers and their students, she said.

Something, she believes, district education authorities understand. 

"I hope people will stop dismissing what the DEAs have to say," Arnaquq-Baril said.

She hopes a future attempt to amend the Education Act would take into account these suggestions from the education authorities.

Those suggestions include adding support programs like suicide prevention training, more land-based programs, a school year that plans around the traditional hunting season, and Inuktitut classroom assistants. 

A balanced education will prepare her son and others to support themselves in a healthy way that balances work in the traditional economy with more office-based jobs, she says. 

With files from Angela Hill