Strong Aboriginal education vital for all students
October 24, 2013
The vast majority of Aboriginal students (82%) attend provincially funded schools in Ontario boards and education authorities, and changes are urgently required to address significant gaps in Aboriginal education for all students.
People for Education – working with an advisory group from a wide array of First Nations and Métis organizations – have produced a report on First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FMNI) students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. The report includes new data from a survey of over 1100 Ontario schools, and information from the Educational Quality and Accountability Office and the Ministry of Education.
Schools need to challenge gaps on Aboriginal issues
“It’s time that all of us paid attention to Aboriginal education in our provincially funded schools,” says Annie Kidder, Executive Director of People for Education. “For too long, we have ignored the fact that most of Ontario’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attend schools in Ontario school boards. We are not serving them well, and we are not doing enough to educate all of our students about the complex relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada, or about contemporary and historical First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture, perspectives, and experiences.”
The report details gaps in three main areas and makes recommendations for changes:
- New data from the Ministry of Education show that First Nations students in provincially funded schools achieve far below (at least 20 percentage points) the provincial average on EQAO tests in all subjects.
- The report recommends that the province follow through on the recommendations of the Auditor-General of Ontario to ensure effective implementation of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Framework, and that the province and First Nations, Métis and Inuit organizations co-create goals for Aboriginal education that include, but are not limited to, EQAO targets.
- Principals in 51% of elementary schools and 41% of secondary schools report they offer no Aboriginal education opportunities for their students or staff outside the curriculum. Only 34% of elementary schools and 35% of secondary schools offer professional development for staff around Aboriginal issues.
- The report recommends a mandatory unit on Aboriginal education in the new two-year teacher training program.
- Elementary schools with higher proportions of Aboriginal students have higher than average proportions of students with special needs, are 30% smaller than the provincial average and half as likely to have specialist music, health and physical education teachers, or teacher-librarians.
- In the report, People for Education recommends that the province provides increased upport for boards to ensure that schools with a high percentage of Aboriginal students are provided with First Nations’ language, special education, childcare, arts and physical education resources that are at or above the provincial average.
Wide range of groups agree it’s time for change
The report was written in collaboration with representatives from the Chiefs of Ontario, the Circle of Philanthropy on Aboriginal Peoples, the Federation of Indian Friendship Centres of Ontario, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, First Nation Trustees’ Council of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, Indspire Institute, Métis Nation of Ontario and Aboriginal Initiatives at Ryerson and York Universities.
According to Gord Peters, Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and representative of the Chiefs of Ontario, “The gaps in knowledge, resources and achievement must be addressed in order to improve the educational experience of First Nation students. However, we stress that success will only be achieved if First Nations are equal partners in the design and implementation of solutions.”
Susan Dion, Associate Professor, Aboriginal Education, York University, says, “Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal educators need to confront the knowledge gap about Aboriginal cultures and the history of colonialism; it is important that teachers have this knowledge so Aboriginal students and families can begin to experience schools as a place of belonging and respect.”