Iqaluit DEA makes Inuktitut classes mandatory for Grade 10 students

'The program in the last few years has been suffering,' said Doug Workman, the chairperson of the Iqaluit District Education Authority.

Inuksuk high school has two new Inuktitut teachers, Inuktitut already mandated for K-9

Doug Workman, chairperson of the Iqaluit District Education Authority. The board voted to make Inuktitut language classes mandatory for Grade 9 and 10 students. (Travis Burke/CBC)

It will now be mandatory for all Grade 10 students in Iqaluit to take Inuktitut language classes, after a vote by the city's district education authority earlier this week.

The Iqaluit District Education Authority voted to make the classes mandatory for students on May 27. The classes were previously being offered, said Doug Workman, the DEA's chairperson, but not mandatory.

"The program in the last few years has been suffering," said Workman. "We weren't quite happy with the level of Inuktitut being taught at our school."

Inuksuk High School has hired two Inuktitut teachers for the 2019/2020 school year, Workman said.

The district education authority has been struggling to retain qualified teachers who speak Inuktitut. Workman said it has been several years since the high school had an Inuktitut teacher.

In past years, the courses were being taught by "language specialists," said Workman — people who speak the language, but do not have teaching degrees.

With the two new teachers, the high school will offer both an Inuktitut language arts course, and Inuktitut as a second language.

Inuktitut language arts is already mandatory in Nunavut from kindergarten to Grade 9. In Iqaluit, Inuktitut courses will remain optional for students in Grades 11 and 12.

The changes come on the heels of a report prepared by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and released in April. The report claimed that the state of Inuktitut education in the territory constitutes "cultural genocide," highlighting the lack of teachers and language courses in higher grades.

"They [the board] are quite concerned with the quality of Inuktitut in our schools," said Workman.