International Indigenous education conference chance to share experiences

“Children are already growing up in the dominant culture and are surrounded by it all day, that’s why we need our own education systems,” says Ol-Johan Sikku, from the Sami Parliament in Norway and leader of the SaMOS project (Sami manat odda searvelanjain – Sami children in new education rooms). (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The recent international conference on Indigenous education was an important occasion to share experiences and make connections, says the leader of a Sami education project.

“It’s the same problem all over the world,” Ol-Johan Sikku from the Sami Parliament in Norway, said in a phone interview. 

“Indigenous peoples have education systems, but they are still stuck in the system of the mainstream society that has its own rules and regulations.”

The 2022 World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) was held in Adelaide, Australia September 26-30.

In all approximately 5,000 people attended the event.

WIPCE takes place every three years and looks at the different strategies Indigenous people are using around the globe to provide education that promotes the transmission of their cultures and languages. 

Importance of starting at preschool level

Among the subjects presented at the conference is SaMOS (Sami manat odda searvelanjain – Sami children in new education rooms), a project started in 2017 to provide culturally relevant education for Sami children in kindergarten, early childhood education, and preschools and which includes a strong focus on language. 

The goal of the five-year project is to create a new pedagogy where Sami language and culture would be the main organizing principle for pre-school education, that could then be codified and easily shared across jurisdictions and in different contexts. 

A screenshot from the SaMOS project. Teaching Sami children their language and traditions from a young age will be key to ensuring the survival of Sami culture in the future, says Ol-Johan Sikku. (Courtesy Ol-Johan Sikku)

The SaMOS pilot project wraps up in March 2023. 

Sikku, also the SaMOS project leader, said conferences like WIPCE provide good opportunities to share best practises when it comes to setting up Indigenous education within a majority society.

“Children are already growing up in the dominant culture and are surrounded by it all day, that’s why we need our own education systems,” he said.

“We want to work with our own language models, have our own systems where we can include our own values and culture and how elders have always educated and brought up children and young people.

“If we want our culture to remain in future, we need start with young children. If we rely on the majority system first, we just get more and more colonized.”

Next meeting in New Zealand

The triennial WIPCE was first held in Vancouver, Canada in 1987.

The next edition will be in Auckland, New Zealand.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Post-secondary education offered in Nunavik, Quebec would be a game changer, says school board, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Can cross-border cooperation help decolonize Sami-language education, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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