Inclusive education in Nunavut a 'national embarrassment,' says NTI

A 'grossly inadequate' level of supports for students with special learning needs is violating the human rights of many Inuit, says the land claims organization.

'It violates the basic human rights of many Inuit students,' says Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

NTI is calling on the government to take a number of steps to make sure young Inuit have the necessary support to 'complete school and have bright futures.'

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is calling the territory's inclusive education — a policy that aims to meet students' special learning needs — a "national embarrassment" due to a "grossly inadequate" level of available services.

The comments come as the Nunavut government is wrapping up consultations on proposed changes to the Education Act. The reforms follow a 2015 review that led to some dramatic recommendations.

In its submission to the government, NTI is calling on the government to take a number of steps to make sure young Inuit have the necessary support to "complete school and have bright futures."

More money, more supports

Supporting Nunavut students will take a much larger financial commitment, NTI says. It wants the Government of Nunavut to allocate more of its budget to the department of education. 

It also wants the GN to address staffing shortages, arguing the government needs to hire more specialists qualified to work with children with mental and physical disabilities — and for those specialists to evaluate whether a student is in need of support, a task regularly assigned to teachers.

But first, NTI says the department of education needs to do a better job of figuring out how many students actually need additional support.

According to NTI, the government is significantly underestimating that number — a major roadblock when it comes to making appropriate decisions around the "resources and methods required" to offer support. 

Social promotion does 'significant harm'

NTI wants the government to take a few things out of its inclusive education policy as well — specifically, the practice of social promotion, or what education officials call "continuous progress."

It says the government has "done significant harm to Nunavut students by allowing them to pass from grade to grade without acquiring the necessary competencies.

"Socially promoted students experience serious problems with the material at around Grade 10 and dropout/are pushed out between Grades 10 and 12."

NTI also says those students who do manage to make it through high school, "graduate without the skills they need to function in many employment situations."

DEAs should implement inclusive education, says NTI

The government is hoping to improve inclusive education by transferring the responsibility for it from District Education Authorities — which it says are overburdened — to principals and government staff.

NTI says that's the wrong approach.  

"DEA members know the children, their histories and their needs, often far better than the principal does."

According to NTI, the problem isn't with the DEAs, but with a government that "gives DEAs responsibility for the implementation" without "mechanisms and resources... in place to ensure that DEAs can meet their mandate."

The organization is recommending the government "increase resources to DEAs so that they can fulfill their current responsibilities to implement inclusive education and their other responsibilities."