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Nunavut Literacy Council-Ilitaqsiniq

Hands on Support. © Sue Folinsbee

Stepping stone education programs

As a not-for-profit society, Ilitaqsiniq relies solely on project-based funding to offer its many programs and initiatives. Ilitaqsiniq has developed a strong reputation for work that considers the unique social, cultural and linguistic context of Nunavut. They work for and in service to Nunavummiut. Ilitaqsiniq works to apply the principles of adult learning, community develop­ment and capacity building in the following four areas: Non-formal, culture-based learning programs; Intergenerational or family literacy initiatives, Workplace-based initiatives; and Community-based research. Through our projects, our community-based research and non-formal embedded literacy programs, Ilitaqsiniq has developed a reputation for holistic, high-quality, innovative work in adult learning in support of families, communities and for individual participation in both the cash and land-based economies.

Ilitaqsiniq creates innovative models of non-formal, culture-based learning programs embedded with literacy, language and other work and life skills. Cultural content, known in Nunavut as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, is the foundation for all Ilitaqsiniq programs and is carried out by Elder instructors. Our programs include teaching both traditional and contemporary cultural content and knowledge in specific skill set areas. This is made possible by teaming up Elder instructors with younger Nunavummiut who are content specialists (fashion designers, chefs, guides and mechanics.)

Elder Instructors. L to R: Top row: Inuaraq Tattuinee and Quluaq Pilakapsi. L to R: Bottom Row: Kumak Kabvitok and Rosemary Angugasak Sandy. © Sue Folinsbee

Ilitaqsiniq has captured the outcomes of embedded literacy programs through comprehensive community-based research. The outcomes of these non-formal culture-based learning programs consistently have results of over 85 per cent of the program participants going on to either join the workforce or enrolling in formalized training or post-secondary education. When you consider that the majority of participants when applying to the programs are out of school or out of work, this outcome is a huge success and is an example of the impact the programs make on participants’ lives and within the community. Ilitaqsiniq celebrates the achievements of all participants. To name a few: Aqpa Aulatjut and Tara Green have gone on to receive their Bachelor of Education and are currently teaching in their home communities. Victoria Kakuqtinniq became the owner and operator of Victoria’s Arctic Fashion. Lukisha Tatty is currently pursuing her culinary arts diploma at Holland College in Prince Edward Island.

Ilitaqsiniq has developed a model of learning for Nunavummiut that engages participants, meets their needs, inspires them to continue learning, builds their confidence and supports them to connect to their language, culture and identity. Often called the ‘Miqqut model of learning,’ after one of Ilitaqsiniq’s more prominent programs, which also won the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2012, it is a style of teaching and learning that re-engages learners who may not have had a positive learning or schooling experience in their past and supports them to take the risk to try again. Results of our research show that embedding literacy into non-formal programs simultaneously addresses wellness, community engagement, language/literacy development, and cultural transmission in a holistic way.

Lorainne Gordon, portraying happiness and well-being. © Sue Folinsbee

Some of the many elements of Ilitaqsiniq programs that contribute to the level of success participants experience include:

  • having Elder instructors as the leaders of the program to enrich Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and the connection to language, culture and identity;
  • embedding literacy into cultural content and skill development, which gives participants the tools and transferrable skills to engage in modern Inuit society;
  • providing services to the community through program training initiatives;
  • building confidence, well-being and supporting mental health through literacy activities and essential skill development;
  • allowing participants to take risks in learning by using non-formal program approaches to remove the fear of failure; and
  • allowing participants to pursue their own learning journey.

Ilitaqsiniq sees itself as an integral part to the overall spectrum of education in Nunavut. There are individuals in the communities who cannot meet the demands or requirements to enter basic college programs, complete high school or enter the workforce due to literacy barriers. Ilitaqsiniq programs are stepping stone programs because they help to support participants to build their confidence and increase their literacy, language and essential skills to take on the challenges of completing high school, enrolling in post-secondary education or pursuing employment opportunities.

To learn more about Ilitaqsiniq, readers can view Ilitaqsiniq’s video, which captures the impacts the programs have on participants and their communities at https://vimeo.com/chickweedarts/ilitaqsiniq or by visiting www.ilitaqsiniq.ca or by contacting Ilitaqsiniq’s Executive Director at adrianakusugak@nunavutliteracy.ca.