Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Curriculum development and Inuit (aboriginal) education

As a translator many interesting things go through my hands, many opportunies to research and learn new things. One of the things close to my heart have to do with education and sciences - maths, experimental and experiential.

One of things I'm beginning to realize is that the proposed curriculum is very often quite advanced and well-thought out - meaning that there is nothing "wrong" or "inappropriate" about the curricula themselves but they are only as good as the teachers (and their opportunities to commit) for these are people who are supposed to teach our students. I'm not saying anything against teachers, per se. But what I'm critical of is the "frontier" mentality that comes with people from outside the territory who come to work here (often for a year or two) and the lack of follow-up and carry-through so necessary for learning and teaching. The schools here (more than anything) become unredeemably bureaucratic because of the high attrition and transient rates.

And the other thing I'm critical of is the apparent lack of "specialist" teachers, and, with this consultant culture of pedagogy, what often results in exegesis of critical text that has no discernible rhyme or reason (ie, not logically-productive way of teaching) for students to glom onto and build upon and from.

One other thing I'm critical of is that I find nary a workable/actionable section on investing in teacher education programs to develop "native" teacher work-force in often grandiose education "strategies"; I mean, without teachers to stay and work over a long-term in one spot the whole purpose of teaching our students is kind of self-defeating because "education" actually requires consistency and commitment from not only the students but also those teaching them.

So far, from what I've seen and experienced, there are very few committed and interested individuals who spend their whole careers teaching, and this compounds the problem of transience. Education in Nunavut seems to mainly consist of make-work project mentality for newly-minted teachers who plan only to put in time before moving onto something else because of stress and ill-preparedness. Those Inuit teachers who stay in the system tend to stay with the younger classes or become support staff. My best friend subs as a teacher, and he's told me that he doesn't enjoy anything about subbing for high school teachers because of the social dysfunction and complete apathy of the student body. This is what I picture in my mind of Stalinism and North Korea writ large. The high school is more a gulag that spits out Inuit students just in their most trying period of life. A lot of them commit suicide during or shortly after.

We have the right tools and/or ingredients already. I know or have known some exceptional individuals who chose the teaching profession and those who teach teachers. The problem, as I see it, has little to do with students' abilities (which have yet to be cultivated) and the teacher's abilities but the apathetic and dysfunctional social conditions that is the school system in which they find themselves. I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts, Education HQ and administration (at the high school level) spends inordinate amounts of time dealing with dysfunction, disruption, destruction of property, and punitive measures rather than the proper operations of and investments in the school.

I spent a great deal of time as a policy person on education issues: I rarely heard about the issues of and needs for teacher/student support programs but I certainly heard a lot about the misconceptions of education as an expected reward for time spent, as a consumer silver bullet. Education is a life-long process of learning and applying reason and first principles of one's chosen/prescribed subjects and, later on, one's chosen profession. It must be able to capture one's imagination and its comprehension should be able to carry one to a higher levels of consciousness and original insights, not confound and frustrate one into a life of passive agression.

We must, we need to recognize the social aspects and social needs of our schools to address the default hellish dysfunction that results from lack of ownership from all concerned.


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