Friday, May 02, 2008

Nunavut's Education Act - The Hilarity Continues

I happened across a news article this afternoon about Nunavut's proposed Education Act. Now, I don't know about you, but every time I hear something, (and really at this point, it could be anything), about this new Act slowly grinding its way through the gears of government, I can't help but envision a pile of clowns jumping in and out of a very small car. Nunavut residents will know well enough what I am talking about. It's mind-blowing that it has taken 9 years for a proposed bill to reach 3rd reading. While I can grasp the concept of wanting to be thorough in your approach to a major piece of government legislation......9 year?! (Actually, they aren't quite there yet but 3rd reading should take place this summer from what I've been told.)

What I find laughable about this article are some of the criticisms of the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (the body responsible for overseeing that the provisions of the Land Claim are carried out) and the District Education Authorities (DEAs). Kids up wandering the streets? Government's fault. Kids are playing Guitar Hero 3 until their arms drop off? Government's fault. DEAs are apathetic, acclaimed or face low voter turn-out? Government's fault. Underwear on too tight? Government's fault.

I mean come on people, really now. Far be it from me to defend the GN, but seriously, I don't see the point of simply blaming the government for every little problem. It's an easy out. And it's not like some of NTI's or the DEAs' solutions are any more helpful. The NTI's proposal to immediately have 80% of instruction in Inuktitut is hardly realistic. School's can't even find enough qualified Inuit teachers as it already is. How does this prepare a student if they wanted to attend a college program in Ontario for example. NTI suggests lowering the teaching requirement for Inuit in order to attract sorely needed Inuit teachers. No seriously. This is akin to blindfolding myself and then leading you (blindfolded as well) across 8 lanes of Highway 401. Any takers? Exactly. You don't make progress with the blind leading the blind.

DEAs want the power to hire and fire teachers. Thankfully, this won't see the light of day in the new Act. Honestly, at the start of the school year, I introduced a new colleague of mine to our DEA chair here and the man thought I was a new teacher as well, even though, I HAD BEEN HERE FOR TWO YEARS ALREADY. Okay, granted, it could have been just a brain fart on his part. (Regular readers will know I am prone to this myself). But seriously, if the DEAs held this power it would make teaching the only profession where the possibility exists that an individual with no education background and possibly lacking even a high school diploma, can make a hiring/firing decision affecting that teacher's career. Insane. I'd be happy if DEA's would spend time addressing attendance issues rather than simply blaming the Minister. After all, it's their kids!

The DEA rep. mentioned in this article suggests teachers can promote Inuit culture by decorating classrooms in northern themes (something I already see being done) or by building igloos or lighting traditional lamps with students. Isn't this a parental/community responsibility? Apparently, the lady is unaware that we do have cultural instructors for these kinds of activities. Oops. Little Johnny blew himself and his igloo up because (following the NTI suggestion of immediate 80% instruction in Inuktitut only) he couldn't read English well enough to read the warning label on the fuel container.

Okay, Darcy, you've poked your fun and made your points. What is your suggestion? Simply this. Get the Act passed. It may not be perfect but let's not start building the wagon all over again. Its not like governments never go back and tinker with them. Sure the Act probably won't please everyone (myself included). BUT........We've been waiting 9 years for an Education Act. Let's not wait 9 more due to constant contention and wrangling. There simply isn't time. Our kids deserve better.