“The present configuration of the NTEP (Nunavut Teacher Education Program) is not capable of producing a bilingual, Inuit teacher workforce.”
This according to the NTEP review report by Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group. The Department of Education contracted the firm in 2017 and received the report in October of that year, but has yet to release it.
Nunavut News obtained a copy last week.
The report looks at NTEP’s design and structure, at the program in relation to bilingualism, student support and community relations, management and administration – notably, “particularly challenged” communication and collaboration between partners Nunavut Arctic College and the University of Regina – and alternative models for program delivery.
It states the territory’s education system elements – K-12 and NTEP – are caught in a “dynamic deadlock.”
“There was a sense that secondary schools did not graduate students who were interested in or ready for the demands of post-secondary education. Consequently, there were not enough students moving into post-secondary education, and the academic and/or language skills of those who did enter NTEP were not at a level that would prepare them for success. That, in turn, meant that NTEP graduates did not carry with them the subject matter knowledge, the language skills, or the pedagogical skills needed or expected of entrants into the teaching profession,” the report states.
“The programs in the schools receiving these new teachers would not improve, the school and student outcomes would not improve, and the cycle would begin over again.”
The report further states the system is to blame, not students.
“Nevertheless, the consequence was a deadlock unless and until something – from either inside or outside the sector – broke the cycle.”
The 2017 report points out similar flaws and weaknesses that a 2005 review outlined.
“There remains much work to be done if Inuktitut is to become the principal language of instruction in all Nunavut schools and Inuit teachers are employed in representative proportions,” states the 2005 review of NTEP by Aarluk Consulting, Inc.
Inuit must be full participants in design of education system
That review was followed by a fully developed strategy – Qalattuq: 10 Year Educator Training Strategy 2006-2016.
“This strategy is, in effect, the Inuit Employment Plan for the Department of Education, promising to bring large numbers of trained Inuit into the workforce in Nunavut schools,” Qalattuq states. “No other Inuit Employment Plan will have such a profound effect on the overall financial welfare of Nunavut.”
That strategy was never implemented.
Nunavut News reached out to several MLAs, seeking comment on this latest report. Aggu MLA Paul Quassa is the only one who made himself available before the deadline. Quassa is a Nunavut Agreement negotiator, former land claim organization president, former education minister and premier for half a year.
“This is another one (report) that is probably not going to be carried forth. They’ve been doing studies that go back to the ’90s. It seems yet another study that’s being shelved,” said Quassa, who was education minister when Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group was contracted.
“I was very aware that our Education Act very specifically says we deliver bilingual education. How can we deliver, starting from NTEP to our schools, truly bilingual education? How can we get instructors that can, in fact, teach NTEP in Inuktitut to ensure our teachers are coming out fluent in both languages and able to teach in both languages? That was not happening.”
Asked if this latest report is helpful, Quassa says he thinks not.
“Looking at other studies that had been done, it’s like a cut-and-paste kind of a study … Nothing really new,” he said.
In fact, looking back to 1993 and a report prepared for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called the Northern Education and Training Systems for Inuit: A Strategic Analysis, many of the same issues are identified, and that report concludes:
“If the design of the institutions and programs to be offered by the new Nunavut government and other governments yet to be agreed upon are to duly reflect Inuit culture by having equitable Inuit participation in their development at all levels, and if the citizens of the regions falling under self-government are to be equipped for effective participation in the wage and/or traditional economy, then Northern education and training systems have much to make up in a very short space of time.”
Department mum on NTEP review
In all cases, a bilingual system strongly based in Inuit language and culture is the goal.
“I think we have to have a very bold government to change things,” said Quassa. “It’s possible to both teach traditional knowledge and contemporary knowledge within our schools. It is so possible. Education is nothing new within our society. Maybe we didn’t call it education, but life-long learning is what it’s all about.”
And he doesn’t think it has to take another 20 years to achieve.
“No. Twenty years? Come on,” he said.
But that’s what Bill 25, An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act, to be debated in the legislative assembly in October, sets out: a 20-year schedule to implement bilingual kindergarten to Grade 12 education. Dates proved to be the undoing of Bill 37, which Quassa championed as education minister in 2017.
Part of the problem may be the tension or perceived incompatibility between Inuit ways of knowing and learning and the imported southern education models. Or as the 2017 report states it: “There is a tension between (1) the desire to prepare individuals to be effective teachers and have met perceived standards of teaching competence and (2) ensuring the twin goals of bilingual education for Nunavut and having a teacher workforce that is 85 per cent Inuit.”
“That seems to be the case within the government, and the department,” said Quassa.
The Department of Education did not reply to questions related to the latest NTEP review, including why the report has not yet been released, what the department intends to do with it, and how much it cost.
However, it did respond to the Auditor General of Canada’s June report on Support for High School Students and Adult Learners, which found Nunavut’s education system creates many hurdles to graduating with a Grade 12 diploma, for high-school students and adult learners.
The department says it intends to move forward in developing a 10-year strategic plan and a 10-year teacher retention and recruitment strategy.
Meanwhile, the work of the past, rather than being left to gather dust in a corner, may hold answers.
“We identified a number of key factors where changes were needed in order to break the deadlock,” states Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group. “Qalattuq: 10 Year Educator Training Strategy 2006-2016 undertaken more than 10 years ago, noted many of the same issues.”
That strategy, identified at the time as an Inuit Employment Plan, might also provide a way forward to a current Inuit employment plan, as the department doesn’t seem to have one of those, either.
Quassa thinks Qalattuq could have worked “if the Department (of Education) was seriously wanting to make a difference.”
“They don’t seem to follow or act on recommendations that are being made. To a certain point, a lot of these backroom decisions at the bureaucracy level doesn’t really go to the minister. That’s not how it should be done,” he said.
Reports old and recent point to a low number of Inuit role models in Nunavut’s schools, while the 1993 report points to the importance of youth having such role models, as well as having their culture and language embedded in their education.
“If Inuit self-determination is to be achieved, then Inuit themselves must possess a clear understanding of their culture and feel and express a pride in it. Without such an understanding, Inuit youth lack the self-esteem required to function effectively in a modern world. An important part of the process by which an understanding of Inuit culture is brought about is through the full integration of Inuit cultural values in the educational system,” states that 26-year-old report.
“Integration of cultural values occurs at a variety of levels within the system. These include curriculum content, teaching methods, the number of qualified Inuit teachers available as suitable role models for students, the number of Inuit administrators within the school system, and who actually sets school policy.”
Quassa says, “We want our next generation to be successful. We want our next generation not just to be income support recipients.”
Nunavut’s high-school graduation rate is roughly 40 to 48 per cent, depending on the source, as compared to Canada’s 85 to 88 per cent. While the Nunavut rate has improved from 20 to 30 per cent in 2000, that’s already a significant portion of an entire generation of Inuit youth not served by the education system.