John Fanjoy, president of the Nunavut Teachers’ Association (NTA), presented his association’s opinion with respect to Bill 25, an Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, on Nov. 26.
For over two hours at the Legislative Assembly, Fanjoy answered the questions of various members of the Standing Committee on Legislation and raised awareness on teacher related issues.
Bilingual education needed
The NTA is a professional association which represents all kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers in Nunavut. It believes that students should have a fully bilingual, Inuktut and English, education system that is based on Inuit societal values.
“Bilingual education does not mean 50/50 right from Grade 1,” said Fanjoy.
During the early grades Inuktut should be the majority language and there should be a progression into English language arts along with a strong Inuktut course load up to Grade 12, explained Fanjoy.
“We believe the capacity should be in place at the high school grades, where multiple courses can be offered in Inuktut or English at the decision of the parents or the student.”
Recruitment and retention
According to Fanjoy, “every year Nunavut loses approximately 35 per cent of its teachers and almost 50 per cent of its administrators.”
Adam Arreak Lightstone, MLA-Iqaluit-Manirajak, was “shocked” to hear Fanjoy’s statistic about how many teachers and administrators are lost annually.
Lightstone asked David Joanaise, Minister of Education, to verify this statistic, but he could not confirm it.
Fanjoy stated due to the teacher retention and recruitment crisis, many of communities cannot fill the amount of teacher vacancies with qualified professionals. This is not only detrimental to the students but affecting the teachers.
“We do have combined classes, we have some classes that have upwards of 40 students because of a vacant teaching position,” stated Fanjoy.
The NTA believes fewer Inuit are choosing and remaining in teaching due to the workload.
However, other factors contributing to the decline of teachers is the lack of staff housing and increase of violence in schools.
Fanjoy continued to explain that almost half the Nunavut Teacher Education Program (NTEP) graduates leave the teaching profession within the first five years of employment.
Besides the heavy workload, there is inadequate support for teachers during their first five years in the profession, explained Fanjoy.
There needs to be a “formalized” mentoring program for all new teachers before they enter into the schools, insisted Fanjoy.
There needs to be an “enhanced” mentoring program for teachers who are not from Nunavut, focusing on how to adapt to the standards of the community and the students they will be serving
To this, the Minister of Education reported that presently there is a website under development that will be focusing on teacher orientation, mentorship and professional development.
Despite available funds to learn Inuktut, school administrators and teachers are having difficulty finding the time to learn the language due to the increased workload.
Time is not provided by the employer during the workday to learn Inuktut.
“We need to come up with a system where there can be time provided for enough language instruction for our English speaking and French speaking teachers,” explained Fanjoy.
Student support teacher responsibilities continued
A major concern for NTA is the increase of workload for the classroom teachers.
“If Bill 25 passes as-written, student support teachers (SSTs) would be stripped of most of their responsibilities, which would fall on the already over worked classroom teachers,” stated Fanjoy.
He explained, that SSTs receive specialized training in developing and implementing Individual Student Support Plans.
These teachers are given the time and workspace to concentrate on specialized services to support students with exceptionalities.
Fanjoy insisted, SSTs should be doing the job instead of “severely” overburdening the classroom teacher with the responsibility.
The NTA also proposed that standardized assessments in literacy or numeracy should be co-constructed with teachers in Nunavut. The assessments should reflect appropriate cultural contexts in order to help the students succeed.
“We are worried about the possibility that assessments from outside of Nunavut that our students may not be able to relate to being implemented upon them,” stated Fanjoy.
Joanaise mentioned the Council Ministers of Education are presently working on an assessment and evaluation reporting policy framework handbook. It will be distributed to schools in 2020.
The NTA believes students over the age of 21 should enroll in an adult education program, not in a regular education program in a high school with minors.
Each community should have a “vibrant” and “well funded” adult basic education program that will permit students over 21 to earn a high school education.
Fanjoy also mentioned that parents should be given the opportunity to enroll their child at an early age as long as the child meets the requirements of a baseline test, which would still need to be developed.
The NTA agrees that the District Education Authorities (DEA) should be involved with the school administrator hiring and contract renewal process, but should not be the only decision maker.
Instead, the authority of decision for this specific issue should be placed within the Department of Education.
The NTA believes bilingual education can be achieved in Nunavut if there is a significant infusion of funding, a continued reformation of the NTEP program, a concerted effort to recruit Inuit into the education profession and new supportive programs for teachers in their first five years of work.