Nunavut Struggles to Offer Inuit-Language Education

Nunavut is struggling to educate its young students in English and the Inuit languages, even though it is required under the territory’s education laws.

Not all of Nunavut’s schools have met the territorial government’s 2009 goal of providing bilingual Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes.

The problem is the lack of bilingual teachers, said Premier Eva Aariak, who is also the territory’s education minister.

“We do encounter challenges in meeting those, when it come to recruitment of bilingual teachers,” Aariak told CBC News on Monday.

Earlier this month, Inuit groups and governments released a national Inuit education strategy that, among other things, called for more classroom instruction in languages such as Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.

Aariak said 85 per cent of Nunavut’s schools offer the majority of their K-3 classes in Inuktitut, while the schools that don’t are mostly in the High Arctic and Kitikmeot regions.

The Kitikmeot region includes communities like Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay, where Aariak said the diminished Inuinnaqtun dialect makes it difficult to teach in that language.

“As the level of Inuinnaqtun increases, the level of support in teaching of the language, again, will increase,” Aariak said.

About half of the provisions in the Education Act have been implemented since the legislation came into force two years ago, but Aariak said more resources, including educators, are needed.

“In order to fully comply with the Education Act today, we would need many more teachers and many more resources,” she said.

In the hopes of bringing in more bilingual teachers, the Nunavut Teacher Education Program will be offered in 10 communities this year.

CBC News

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