Inuit education is about to undergo a sea change, including the standardization of Inuktitut writing, as the group tackling the challenge opened their home base in Ottawa Tuesday.
“Standardization of the Inuit writing system is not as easy as it sounds,” said national Inuit leader Terry Audla, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents Canada’s four Inuit regions. “In communities impacted by the resource boom, there are shortages of qualified workers. Too many young people are not graduating. We know that we have to educate our way to prosperity.”
Audla spoke at the opening of the Amaujaq National Centre for Inuit Education, a new Ottawa-based group tasked with putting to practice a list of 10 recommendations to improve Inuit education drawn up in 2008 under the National Strategy on Inuit Education.
“This signals a moment in our history where Inuit are saying the next period of our modern history will be dedicated to educating more students,” said Mary Simon, chairperson of the National Committee on Inuit Education, citing the fact that 75 per cent of Inuit children don’t complete high school. “The Amaujaq centre is small, but it provides the needed capacity to support the completion of the 10 recommendations of the strategy.”
Standardizing the language is just one of the four top priorities of the group, Simon said, noting that focusing on early childhood education, getting parents involved and bringing together Inuit researchers are also high on the list.
“The strategy is our blueprint. We will bring meaning to the promise of education for this generation and others to come,” said Simon. In the coming months, the group’s members will begin community tours through the north aimed at getting parents engaged in educating their kids.
The group will also soon finalize a suite of online teaching tools that will be available to every childcare centre north of 60.
“With its 10 solid recommendations and solid grounding in evidence based research, and a clear path forward. We couldn’t turn our back on a strategy that had the ambition and capacity to change the lives of so many,” said Cory McPhee, vice-president of corporate affairs for Mining company Vale, which is sponsoring the new group.
“Canada’s economic prosperity over the next 20 years depends on unlocking the great resource wealth of Canada’s north,” said Terry Audla. “The Inuit want to be and should be part of that economic prosperity.”