Northern education ministers share best practices

Northern education ministers share best practices
Territorial education ministers Paul Quassa, Elaine Taylor and Jackson Lafferty meet in Yellowknife last week.Photo: ECE.

The three territorial education ministers have taken the first steps toward greater communication and information sharing when it comes to Northern education.

NWT Education Minister Jackson Lafferty was joined by his territorial counterparts for the first time in a tri-territorial forum to discuss ways the three jurisdictions can work together to achieve success for students in the North, from pre-kindergarten to adult learners.

“The three territorial jurisdictions are very unique in how we deliver things with the remoteness and high cost of living. We are going to be standing united together when we approach the federal government or provincial counterparts,” Lafferty told The Journal on Friday.

“This is the first meeting we’ve had where we are sharing information so we know what the other jurisdictions are doing. It was a great interaction,” he said.

The three ministers discussed ways of closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, possible federal cuts to the territorial literacy councils and touched on Teacher Education Programs offered by each of the three territorial colleges.

Lafferty said the ministers hope to continue meeting at least annually to get a sense of where education is heading in the three territories.

Residential schools education a focus

One of major topics discussed by the ministers was how each territory is incorporating the history and legacy of residential schools in the classroom.

According to Lafferty, the NWT and Nunavut are “leading the pack” in Canada and internationally for including a residential schools component in their high school education systems.

Developed by the territory over a number of years, the residential schools unit of the Northern Studies program was implemented as a mandatory component for Grade 10 students in 2013 and has since received attention across Canada and abroad.

“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from educators, even the parents and students,” Lafferty said. “Other jurisdictions are asking for more detailed information on the actual curriculum and how we developed it…It was very unique; the first of its kind.

“This material is quite critical to our schools as we move forward to reconcile our pasts, and move forward with healing and hope for the future,” he said.

More engagement on education renewal

The action plan promised in the GNWT’s framework for education renewal tabled last November, which promises sweeping reforms to the territory’s education system, will be delayed by several more months for more consultation, Lafferty said.

“I was hoping to have that by spring session, but we’re told that it’s too rushed, we need more engagement with the public, with the educators, with the parents, all walks of life,” he said. “It will be their document; it will be their voice.”

The minister said his two territorial counterparts will be watching closely as the NWT tackles its education overhaul.

“It’s a huge undertaking and they are very interested in how we move forward on this,” he said.

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