Future of education
Education Minister Jake Ootes speaks to school board

Yellowknife ( May 15/00) - More financial assistance for students and a new program to help initiate teachers into the Northern school system are two of the goals included in a new education strategy launched recently by the GNWT.

Minister of Education, Culture and Employment Jake Ootes made the four-year plan public last week.

Entitled Towards a Better Tomorrow, the plan calls for a new approach by the GNWT to address issues such as resource development and self-reliance for the Northwest Territories. According to Ootes, education in the NWT is considered to be one of the biggest priorities of the government.

"The legislative assembly got together in Fort Providence in early February to discuss the strategic direction the government should take over the next four years," Ootes said.

"We met as a cabinet after that and the result was the Towards a Better Tomorrow plan. It gives the vision, priorities, strategy, and the key goals over the next four years."

In conjunction with the overall plan outlined in the document, the Department of Education will be seeking to increase spending allotted to student support services.

"Student support services are now at a level of 8.2 per cent (of the education budget) and we're now going to increase it to 15 per cent," Ootes said.

"The budget will increase by $1.6 million every year for the next four years."

A recent addition to the department's strategy is the Teacher Introduction program.

"It's for beginning teachers to help them overcome the jitters of starting a new job in the community. One of the focuses is for graduates from our teacher's education program and the other is for new teachers to the North," Ootes said, adding, "We will be piloting that (Teacher Introduction program) for the next year just to give regions and different areas an opportunity to feed into it and to be able to make suggestions for improvement."

Another concern Ootes addressed at the meeting was the student/teacher ratio, which he said will be decreased under legislation passed earlier this year.

"We're already taking initiatives like decreasing the teacher/student ratio from one for every 16 students to one for every 18 students," Ootes said.