YNTEP on hold, past review buried

The Yukon Native Teacher Education Program has hit the hold button. Yukon College will not be accepting any new students into the program in the next school year. The program is currently being reviewed.

The Yukon Native Teacher Education Program has hit the hold button.

Yukon College will not be accepting any new students into the program in the next school year.

The program is currently being reviewed.

But not because there is something wrong with it, said Deb Bartlette, the college’s dean of applied arts.

Reviews are common, she said. Many colleges and universities do academic reviews every five to seven years.

And it is common for programs to be put on hold while undergoing a review, she said.

“We will just press the pause button for a year and that will give us time and resources to consult on the recommendations with all of our stakeholders and determine which ones we want to implement and how we want to implement them,” said Bartlette.

The four-year program produces qualified elementary school teachers with specific awareness of Yukon First Nations culture, says its description on the college’s website.

The students currently in the program will not be forced to put their own studies on hold, but for the time being, no new students will be enrolled.

That isn’t a huge disruption, Bartlette said.

So far, there has only been one applicant for next fall and that person didn’t meet all the requirements, she said.

Students who will be entering their second, third or fourth years will have the opportunity to continue on or to graduate in the new and improved program after the review is complete, she said.

The review is being conducted by Thomas Fleming, a B.C.-based historian and retired University of Victoria professor.

He has written two books on educational history and served as research director and editor-in-chief of the 1987-88 British Columbia Royal Commission on Education. Fleming also spent the better part of the past decade working with indigenous peoples and 400 teachers in six of the poorest schools in Argentina.

His job in the Yukon is really just beginning, he said. More than 100 online questionnaires were just dropped on his desk a few weeks ago.

Fleming has also collected other data, conducted interviews and done a lot of listening, he said.

He sings the territory’s praises, noting its high demographic of educated and literate people, he said.

As well, it’s obvious that Yukoners care about public education, he said.

“Yukoners are generally taking this seriously and I think that’s important,” he said.

This is especially important considering what the program has come to epitomize.

It’s not only trying to embrace Yukon First Nations history and culture, but it is trying to correct and counteract the stigma that residential schools left on First Nations education.

“You folks in the Yukon really do understand that we’re in a very complicated situation,” he said. “We have small, local needs to do with First Nations folks and culture and heritage and language, and then we have the sort of Western system of education that was imposed on First Nations folks, sometimes in terrible ways in the mission and residential schools.

“And now all of us are thrown together in the midst of this global economy, and we’re trying to sort ourselves out. How do we move, in any kind of a smooth way, in terms of ourselves and our lives and our values and our education?”

One thing both Bartlette, who holds a PhD in education, and Fleming noted was the strong will to make this program for the Yukon, by the Yukon, they said.

But there have been a lot of different “objectives” tacked on to the YNTEP, said Fleming.

People always have too-high expectations, he said. Whether this is causing problems for the program will make up part of his review.

This isn’t the first time the YNTEP has been reviewed.

Years ago, the program underwent a review, but no one at the college wants to talk about that.

“We’re looking forward,” said Bartlette, after refusing to answer any questions about it.

And the previous review is not public, she said when a copy was requested by the News.

Fleming wasn’t the guy in charge of the review back then.

And he isn’t looking at what was done or recommended, he said.

“Somebody told me that old review got buried away and hasn’t surfaced,” he said.

But it was at about the same time that review was done that the program underwent a fundamental change.

Originally, the college’s program was only for Yukon First Nation students.

That was changed in 2004, said Fleming. The government opened it up to all Yukoners, but reserved a certain number of seats for First Nation applicants.

“You need a certain number of students to keep a program sustainable,” said Bartlette.

The goal, when the program first began, was to train more Yukon First Nation people to work within the education system, she said.

In the early ‘90s, there were only three First Nations teachers in the territory, now there are more than 40, she said.

This review is considering whether to expand the program to train secondary teachers as well elementary teachers, said Bartlette.

But neither Bartlette nor Fleming would discuss anything more specific about this or the past reviews of the program.

The final report is expected in June.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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