The Inuit, a group of native peoples living in Canada, have a graduation rate of only 25%. Obviously, something has to be done. But what? After studying the issue for more than two years, The National Committee on Inuit Education has concluded that one of the most important strategies for improving the graduation rate among Inuit children is bilingual education: teaching them in both their native language, Inuktitut, and either French or English, depending on the region of Canada.
Mary Simon, the leader of Canada’s national Inuit group, told the Globe and Mail that:
“We need to do much more to get the graduation rates up in terms of our kids who aren’t getting through school…We need to implement an era of new investment. I call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fulfil the words of his speech from the throne to make Canada’s North a cornerstone of its agenda and … do something truly significant for the next generation of Inuit.”
According to a UN study published in 2008, indigenous children tend to do better the longer they are taught in their native language. Plus, there is ample evidence to show that the current system is not working. A 25% graduation rate is simply not acceptable.
But where will the money come from? In an era of belt-tightening, that’s the question. The Canadian government has not yet committed to funding bilingual schools, an estimated expense of $20 million per year. While some private businesses and not-for-profit organizations are interested in helping, federal funds will undoubtedly be needed as well. Hopefully, the program will be funded. If it improves the graduation rate and reduces the amount of corresponding social problems, it might even pay for itself.