Report outlines strategy for Innu education
During the winter months of 2003, while the Innu of Labrador were in negotiations for self-government with the federal and provincial governments, a team of researchers from Memorial University were invited by the Innu to conduct a wide-scale assessment of the educational needs of their children.
The report, An Educational Profile of the Learning Needs of Innu Youth, was released in the fall of 2004. The report noted issues ranging from alarmingly low attendance and lagging achievement levels to significant concern for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The majority of Innu children were identified as having average to low-average cognitive ability and acceptable behaviour, indicating a readiness and desire to achieve well in school.
A new report, Recommendations for an Effective Model of Innu Education was released on July 6. It was put together by Drs. David Philpott, Wayne Nesbit, Mildred Cahill and Gary Jeffery, of Memorial University's Faculty of Education. The report presents a series of recommendations, based on extensive consultations and a cross-Canadian review of educational practices for aboriginal youth, for the consideration of educational leaders.
The authors of the report outlined a process to establish a bicultural model of education which would balance improved learning opportunities with the retention of Innu culture and language. The researchers also recommended the need for an educational system that would:
- be managed by Innu communities through a Council of Elders;
- be inclusive for all students;
- staffed by qualified Innu teachers;
- result in a sense of cultural pride for Innu youth and foster healthy and safe environments;
- have a culturally relevant curriculum within a bicultural model of education;
- use Innu-aimun as the language of instruction through preschool to elementary and then transition students into a late English immersion program;
- offer Innu youth enhanced career opportunities;
- produce high school graduates who are fluent in both Innu-aimun and English;
- embrace prevention programs to significantly reduce rates of FASD.
"The report is not meant to be a definitive list but rather the beginning of a process that ought to continue into the years ahead," said Dr. Philpott, lead investigator of the report. "It is our wish that the collaborative tone and sincerity of interest displayed by all stakeholders during the initial assessment project will continue to foster debate and consultation. Innu children and youth deserve nothing less."