While they may not be thinking about the next school year already, students at Mistissini’s Voyaguer Memorial School will be getting a new lease on learning come September. The Cree School Board (CSB) has approved a new pilot project for a teaching ratio of 50-50 in the languages for those in Kindergarten to Grade 6: half in Cree and half in English. The French class will be taught at an 80-20 ratio: 80 per cent French, 20 per cent Cree.

This is in response to the initiative on behalf of the parents and the school to give the students a better chance at succeeding. An independent language assessment done over a year ago showed that students were not retaining enough of any language to succeed in their classes. The results were then taken to the public which voiced an overwhelming desire to change the ratio of Cree taught in classes.

Despite the changes, the Cree Language Instruction Program (CLIP) is not being done away with, says Kathleen Wooten, Deputy Chief of Mistissini and responsible for the Education portfolio. “We asked for a variation on the CLIP program,” Wooten explained. “We are not saying get rid of Cree all together, we just wanted the option to choose which langauge our children should be enrolled in.”

This new project is further to some changes that have already been made within the school to date, including a test kindergarten class that was already being taught with a 50-50 ratio. This produced very positive results. One of the other changes for next year is that all teachers will most likely be required to take a 90-minute course on teaching techniques. Some teachers have already taken the course, also with positive results.

Wooten commends all those involved, from the parents to the administrators to the CSB members. “Its a new start for us. There’s hope, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, if we continue on this path.”