The Office of First Nations and Inuit Education (OFNIE) is launching its first graduate program: Master of Arts (M.A.) Education and Society. Known for delivering teacher certification and professional development programs for educators in Indigenous communities in Quebec, OFNIE partners with regional education authorities to design and deliver locally-responsive teacher training programs. Under the direction of OFNIE partners, a large curricular component of McGill’s OFNIE programs involve First Nations cultural focus and promotion, to further student learning in an effort to celebrate Indigenous languages, art, pedagogies, knowledges, traditions, and more. The OFNIE M.A. will be Canada’s first in-community Education Master’s program and will begin in the Fall 2021 semester with a new cohort of students in the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj.
Less than a year after OFNIE’s first B.Ed. K/Elem (First Nations and Inuit Studies) graduating class in Listiguj, student interest in graduate studies were communicated through regional partner, the Listuguj Education Training and Employment Directorate (LETED) to set the wheels in motion. The M.A. is geared to students who are already practicing teachers, though not exclusively. The program, given through McGill’s Department of Integrated Studies in Education, offers graduate students the opportunity to investigate a particular educational development priorities through project work. Already well-established for McGill Education’s Montreal-based students, the OFNIE M.A. program is unique extension in that students work directly with the local Listiguj school and LETED to identify projects of value to the community.
"One of our main objectives is to to be a resource for educational development of the local education authority while allowing students to get advanced degrees,” explained OFNIE Director, Dr. Stephen Peters. “Graduate students will work with both McGill and community-based education scholars in the development and completion of their project.” When asked about prospective career trajectories for the new cohort of Master’s students, Dr. Peters commented “The degree will position them to be educational leaders in the region. Although it is not a thesis program, it could certainly provide a pathway to a PhD.” Some of the notable classes included in the course calendar include EDEM 660 Community Relations in Education as well as EDEM 503: Research Seminar in Indigenous Studies.
The new M.A. and newly established Bachelor of Education First Nations & Inuit Studies in the Cree communities of Eeyou Istchee (Fall 2020) are excellent indicators of OFNIE’s growth potential. Apart from the Mi'gmaq and Cree communities, OFNIE’s “circle of learning” partnership extends to Inuit and Kanien’kehá:ka communities across the province, with approximately 300 McGill students enrolled.