VANCOUVER, Sept. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - A funding agreement which guarantees predictable, stable and equitable financial
resources remains the biggest hurdle to delivering a quality education
system for First Nations students in British Columbia, First Nations
leaders and educators told the National Panel on First Nation
Elementary and Secondary Education this week.
Language and cultural programming, as well as academic curriculum, were
repeatedly cited as fundamental to building the confidence and identity
for students to succeed in Canada's K-12 education system and beyond.
Internet connectivity and access to other technologies were also
identified as key to delivering quality education to First Nations
students, many of whom live in remote communities.
The Panel held roundtables in Vancouver and Terrace, toured several
First Nations schools, met with the Vancouver Board of Trade and sought
guidance and advice from a wide variety of people, including First
Nations students, educators, parents and elders. The input given to
the Panel will be used to form a series of recommendations to the
Assembly of First Nations and the Government of Canada on ways to
rapidly and urgently improve academic achievement and high school
graduation rates for First Nations students.
"As acknowledged by Canada's Auditor General, we have the structures and
accountability mechanisms in place in B.C. to give our students the
quality of education they deserve," said Deborah Jeffrey, Acting
Executive Director of B.C.'s First Nations Education Steering Committee
(FNESC) and member of the Tsimshian Nation. "It makes no sense -
economically, ethically or morally -- to continue to deny our children
and youth equitable funding to make this possible, including funding
for language, culture and technology," she stressed.
"The quality of First Nations education is improving, but not fast
enough. I hope the Panel comes away with an understanding that First
Nations educators have a strong vision for a successful First Nations
education system," said Darrell Schann, a grade 9 - 12 teacher from
Stz'uminus who participated in the Vancouver roundtable. "Throughout
these discussions, I have seen the path to successful education in
First Nation schools. Do we have the courage to make it a reality?" he
Participants in the discussions also emphasized that education for First
Nations students must be led and delivered at the community level, and
ensuring parents and elders are heavily engaged with their children's
learning and school work is also extremely important.
Teacher recruitment and retention, leadership from school principals and
teachers, and resources to support educators' ongoing professional
development were also identified as key to increasing academic success
among First Nations students.
"Closing the gap between educational achievement for youth in mainstream
society and First Nations' youth is the single biggest shot in the arm
we can give Canada's economy where demand for skilled and
knowledge-based workers is likely to remain greater than our ability to
produce them," said Panel Chair Scott Haldane.
"Every child, regardless of where they live in our prosperous country,
deserves a quality school and a quality education," he said.
"Fortunately, the ability to greatly improve the odds of educational
success for First Nations youth is absolutely within our grasp, and
taking action now is a win-win situation for First Nations and every
"The Panel is wholly committed to listening to First Nations communities
and using their valuable insight to develop a meaningful blueprint for
action to achieve this national priority for the current generation of
children in school today," Haldane concluded.
First Nations youth represent the fastest growing demographic group in
Canada. More than half of First Nations peoples are under age 25 and
350,000 are under 14. Only half of First Nations youth graduate from
high school, compared to more than 80 per cent of other Canadian
children, and only eight percent of First Nations have a university
The Panel, a joint initiative of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Development Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, will deliver its
report to the federal minister and National Chief by year end.
For more information, or to have your say in the development of
recommendations to improve First Nations elementary and secondary
education, please visit: www.firstnationeducation.ca
SOURCE National Panel Secretariat
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