Placement as important as creation with education

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Rankin Inlet was still under the flag of the NWT when I first arrived, and there were going to be many challenges awaiting the Government of Nunavut when our territory first came into being the following year.

I arrived here staunch in my determination to not have any preconceived notions or opinions and be like a giant sponge in the soaking-up of facts and informed opinions before regaling the Kivalliq region with any of my own.

The first determination I made was that education was key to Nunavut’s success and its delivery system had to include strong cultural content from Inuit teachers and support providers.

That quickly became obvious to me, as did the fact the initial time frames often decided upon for a majority of our teachers to be Inuit and full primary instruction to be delivered across the board in Inuktitut were hopelessly optimistic.

Fast-forward almost 21 years and not much has changed in that regard and, right now, concerns are being raised in some corners over how low the number of Inuit teachers in the Kivalliq remains.

First and foremost, if we’re going to solely focus on Nunavut Teacher Education program (NTEP) grads in gauging success in those regards, the contributions being made in the areas of culture, tradition and language instruction (Inuktitut) by a number of Inuit support staff in Kivalliq schools takes a big hit – and unfairly so,

Many of these folks are doing outstanding jobs in the roles of Inuktitut instruction, cultural instruction, student support assistants, school-and-community counsellors, etc.

That’s the good news and it should in no way, shape or form be ignored when either looking at the ‘big picture,’ or tossing numbers around on surface value.

On the bad news front that many simply do not want to hear as they walk down their garden path of utopia, while denying dystopia can ever exist – placement can play a vital role in the overall success of NTEP grads and severely retard the program’s progress in our schools to all but those who only care about quotas and numbers.

And that’s especially true when other government departments are able to swoop-in and hire them away when they realize the impossible predicament they’re in.

And that can often be the case of those NTEP grads who opted for the two-year post degree over the four-year Bachelor of Education program and began their career above the elementary school level.

Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and when that link is continually the one at the start of a process the results are predictable.

Too many students continue to land in the laps of middle school teachers who are far below the grade level they should be at when leaving elementary school – a trait one sees with regularity in communities where ‘teachers’ remain who have their jobs through the desperation of the local District Education Authority (DEA).

The chain has started!

Fast forward four years and some of these students end-up entering Grade 9 with a reading level averaging around Grade 5 (the ones with talented, tough and dedicated teachers in middle school who made-up some of the gap), while others enter high school with a reading level at Grade 2 or below (those who didn’t).

Three terms that should never have existed in a territory trying to build its own educational system from within – grandfathering, social promotion and letters of authority (granted by aforementioned desperate DEA members to fill positions).

Advancements in some areas are taking place, yet the issues facing education in Nunavut remain numerous and complex, and there remains damage still to be undone – but some idioms remain undeniable, especially those concerning chains and foundations.

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