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B.C. university wants to offer remote degrees in the Northwest Territories

Vancouver Island University has applied to deliver a remote Bachelor of Education program
Vancouver Island University is applying to offer programs in Canada’s north. (News Bulletin file)

By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter CABIN RADIO

From September this year, it may once again be possible to become a fully accredited teacher without leaving the Northwest Territories.

According to a press release issued by the GNWT, Vancouver Island University has applied to deliver a remote Bachelor of Education program within the Northwest Territories this fall.

The program would be offered in partnership with Indigenous Nations or school districts. If it goes ahead, the first pilot N.W.T. cohort would include 15 students.

The university said it plans to offer a hybrid program that mixes online learning with instructor visits to communities, similar to a structure it already uses in Nanaimo.

First, the territorial government said, the B.C.-based university must come through a new GNWT approval process.

Since December 2022, the territorial government’s Post-Secondary Education Act has required that all degree programs and universities operating in the N.W.T.Vancouver Island University hopes to start a Bachelor of Education program in which NWT students can become teachers without leaving the territory. be reviewed by a third-party organization based in Alberta, as well as by a quality assurance committee of GNWT staff.

Vancouver Island University’s application is the first received by the GNWT under the new system.

As part of the review process, the territorial government is asking residents to offer their feedback on the university’s application.

The Vancouver Island program would accept all high-school graduates who meet the grade requirements outlined on its website, where the university also pledges to prioritize Indigenous applicants.

Last year, a federal task force on northern post-secondary education identified the under-representation of Indigenous teachers as a critical challenge for the Northwest Territories, and cited barriers to accessing local post-secondary education as one of the main issues behind the shortage.

“Northern and Indigenous students often have to travel significant distances from their homes, families, and lands to access post-secondary education,” the report stated. “There are often stories of ongoing mental, emotional, and financial stress from being away from home, navigating new places, and experiencing systemic barriers.”

Vancouver Island University said it hopes to help by allowing students to learn closer to home.

“An important aspect of this program is the intent to educate pre-service teachers in the community where they are from, and hope to stay and work,” a representative stated in the university’s application.

Education programs used to be offered in the Northwest Territories through Aurora College, but were suspended in 2017.

Earlier this year, the college announced plans to reintroduce a four-year bachelor and two-year postgraduate program in education by September 2024, as part of its transformation into a polytechnic university by 2026.

READ MORE: ‘Accelerator’ program aimed at helping Vancouver Island seafood businesses compete

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