New immersion programs part of expanded Indigenous languages curriculum in NT schools

A file photo of Fort Providence. Photo submitted by Adeline Landry.
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The GNWT has launched its Our Languages curriculum to expand access to learning in Indigenous languages in NT schools.

Currently 42 out of 49 schools offer Indigenous language programming as a second language. 

Four schools,  Deh Gah Elementary School in Fort Providence, Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School in Behchokǫ̀, Chief Albert Wright School in Tulita and  Ɂehtseo Ayha School in Délı̨ne now offer Indigenous immersion programming.

“Language and culture contribute to a strong sense of identity and pride for northerners,” R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment said in a statement. “This new curriculum is built on the premise that our languages can survive and will thrive when schools and communities join together to make language learning a priority.”

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“Through our shared commitment to language revitalization we will realize our vision of a territory where Indigenous languages are thriving, supported and respected.”

NWT Education Bodies make the decision on what language they want to offer in schools – either an immersion language or core second language program, according to Jaimee Kepa, spokesperson for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

It’s the first year for an Indigenous language immersion program in both Tulita and Délı̨nę schools. The program is starting with a junior kindergarten and kindergarten class — all the children of that age in the community are in the immersion program.  

In Fort Providence, all children who enter school begin in the Dene Zhatıé immersion program.  They do not offer an English option.  The program is offered from Junior Kindergarten (JK) to Grade 3.  

In Grade 4, students then transfer into the English programming and continue with Dene Zhatıé as a subject area, which is called a ‘core second language program’ for the remainder of their elementary education, according to Kepa.

Behchokǫ̀, offers parents and caregivers the choice of having their child enter either:  English kindergarten  with Tłı̨chǫ as a ‘core second language program’; or enter a 2 Tłı̨chǫ immersion program with English as a ‘core second language program,’ which lasts through junior kindergarten until grade 2.

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