Source: C.D. Howe Institute
Focus: Policy makers and general public
Summary: It is impossible to focus on the future of First Nations education in Canada without understanding the past. Canada’s history of residential schools sowed seeds of mistrust that continue to make progress difficult. But progress is imperative, and the improvement of opportunities for indigenous peoples remains Canada’s greatest social policy issue. It’s hard to imagine a prosperous future for Canada that does not see a dramatic turnaround in the education fortunes of struggling First Nations students. We all have a role to play – businesses, provincial and federal governments, school boards, families, communities – and there are no quick solutions. It is urgent that reforms advance quickly, but we must also understand that better results from better schools will take time to materialize.
The new federal government has highlighted the importance of policies towards indigenous peoples, and committed significant financial resources toward improved on-reserve healthcare, housing, and education. But the way in which those financial commitments are delivered matters greatly to their potential success, and to future opportunities for better delivering education to First Nations communities.
On April 15, 2016, the C.D. Howe Institute invited established educators as well as administrators and researchers who have experience in provincial engagement in First Nations education, to a seminar to discuss potential short- and long-term education goals, the responsibilities of all individuals and parties involved in delivering education, and what specific, measurable goals can be accomplished in the next few years.
This report provides a summary of those discussions. To preview what follows, participants emphasized the importance of community-driven goals and the need for community-level curricula. All participants believed in the value of measuring student performance, though views varied on how early or often to measure performance, highlighting room for flexibility. Although the overall state of First Nation education in Canada is a major concern, there are pockets of tremendous success, which should be studied for lessons worth learning. Suggestions were made on how to fulfill the federal government’s budgeted commitments, but there was little consensus on how to proceed.