The NWT government is being asked to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and support Indigenous authority over language and culture-based curriculum in a new Education Act.
Hotıì ts’eeda, a research support centre hosted by the Tłı̨chǫ Government, this week published those two key recommendations in response to a territorial government discussion paper about plans to modernize its legislation.
The Education Act sets out how teaching is planned and carried out in the territory, from junior kindergarten to Grade 12. The legislation is considered to be outdated and part of the reason why a 2020 federal audit found the NWT’s education system to be falling short.
That audit expressed concern that the NWT’s education system did not adequately support Indigenous-language and cultural education, offered too little for students and teachers in smaller communities, and was not appropriately monitored as a whole.
The territorial government now says it will redesign the Education Act “to increase opportunities for student success across the territory, while addressing gaps in student outcomes.” As part of that process, the territory has been requesting public feedback with the intent to compile and present the findings this year.
Among issues raised in Hotıì ts’eeda’s response is the division between the quality of education in Yellowknife and that found in smaller communities.
According to territorial government data on high school graduation rates, there exists a 40-percent disparity between the graduation rate in Yellowknife (72 percent) and small communities (33 percent).
Hotıì ts’eeda asks for a new Education Act to include a commitment to implementing the UN Declaration, a plan to work with Indigenous governments on establishing or reaffirming regional governing education bodies, and support for Indigenous governments in authorizing knowledge-holders to provide guidance on language and culture-based curriculum.
The paper states change must go beyond the Education Act.
“The efforts of the GNWT with respect to changing the Education Act can only be fully realized if they are supported by a whole of government effort to implement UNDRIP,” the paper concludes.