Panel Hears School Governance, Infrastructure and Stability Key to Student Success at Final Regional Roundtable in Saskatchewan

National Roundtable in Ottawa Will Conclude Engagement Process

SASKATOON, SK, Nov. 18, 2011 /CNW/ - First Nations leaders and education experts in Saskatchewan told the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education that strong governance structures and quality infrastructure are core components of a quality of education system and key to increasing high school graduation rates for First Nation students.  Teachers, principals, parents, students and community leaders participating in a day-long roundtable in Saskatoon highlighted they are doing the best with what they have but could be achieving better outcomes with the benefit of secondary supports for teacher training, student assessment, and curriculum development.  The Panel also heard that the ability to engage in multi-year planning and job security and pay parity for teachers, comparable to that in the public school system, are also key to building excellent schools with low teacher turn-over.

Other key themes in Saskatchewan included the importance of parental and community engagement and the need to nurture a foundation of language and culture so students have the pride, self esteem and confidence to succeed in K - 12, as well as to complete post-secondary programs.  Teachers also stressed the need for professional development opportunities, the ability to share resources and best practices with other on-and-off reserve colleagues, build capacity and have a collective voice.   

The ability to offer classes in a range subjects, such as drama and art, in addition to core academic subjects like math, sciences and English was also raised.  "I wish First Nation high schools offered more subjects.  How do students know what they want to be if they don't have the opportunity to take a variety of courses," asked Morgan Jimmy, a grade 12 student at Sakewew High School in North Battleford.  "How do we get police officers, teachers, political leaders, doctors, dentists etc. without classes like law, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, history, native studies and math courses like algebra and calculus?"

"The National Panel has witnessed extraordinary leadership across Canada in support of First Nation student education in the K - 12 years.  Despite the challenges related to funding, infrastructure and community and social issues, there are many, many examples of both First Nation and other educators who are doing amazing things and achieving exemplary outcomes," said Scott Haldane, Panel Chair.  "The Panel is grateful for the wealth of knowledge and guidance it has received during the regional engagement process and will use it as the guiding compass to draft our report to National Chief Atleo and Minister Duncan," he stated.

The seven regional engagement sessions will culminate in a National Roundtable in Ottawa on November 22nd.   This final meeting will be an opportunity for the Panel to advance thinking on possible approaches to improve the quality of education and how to respond to regional and community diversity in the context of a national report.  Attending the national session will be community leaders, educators, administrators, students and academics from across Canada who share a focus and drive to improve First Nation K - 12 education and student success.

More than half of First Nations peoples are under age 25 and 350,000 are under 14.  Fewer than half of First Nations students attending schools on- and off-reserve graduate from high school, compared to more than 80 per cent of other Canadian youth.  Non-Aboriginal students are over 10 times more likely to obtain a university degree than on-reserve students.  Employment levels for First Nations students who graduate university are virtually identical to other Canadians.   

The Panel, a joint initiative of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Assembly of First Nations, will deliver its recommendations to the federal minister and National Chief by year end.

For more information and to have your say in the development of recommendations to improve First Nation elementary and secondary education, please visit:  www.firstnationeducation.ca.  Follow the Panel's activities on Twitter at Panel_Education

SOURCE National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education

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For media inquiries please contact: 
Susan King:  C: 613-725-5901; O: 613-744-8282; susanking@sympatico.ca

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National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education

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