Panel Hears of Progress and Challenges from Three Treaty Organizations in Alberta

Visits to Kipohtakaw Education Centre, Tsuu T'ina High School and
Swan River First Nation School garner input from students, parents, and teachers 

EDMONTON, Nov. 7, 2011 /CNW/ - First Nations leaders in Alberta told the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education that true partnerships between First Nations and provincial and federal governments are key to strengthening learning and educational success for First Nations students.

Citing momentum from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Education signed last year between Grand Chiefs of the three Treaty organizations in Alberta, the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Alberta Education Minister, First Nations educators highlighted their goal of working as equal partners with the other governments and of sharing a common vision and objectives for strong education outcomes for First Nations students. 

The First Nations leaders and educators suggested the MOU provides a framework for collaboration and change to guide the restructuring of First Nations education in Alberta to advance many elements of a quality education system including parental and community engagement, Treaty and cultural awareness, and tuition and service agreements.

"The MOU on First Nation Education marked a new beginning for all First Nations children in Alberta and we ask that the Panel support the importance of our language and culture and maintaining our identity to guide our children to success," said Ms. Sheena Jackson, Education Director of Treaty Seven First Nations.

"The proposed development of the Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre will focus on First Nations education in Alberta and benefit all the First Nations in all three Treaty Territories that are in Alberta," said Mr. Dale Awasis, Education Director of Treaty Eight First Nations. 

"Other priority areas for progress are the need for better data collection and management and new indigenous curriculum and resource development.  Funding levels that put our children on equal footing with their peers in the public school system are also important," he concluded.

"During visits to Tsuu T'ina Jr/Sr High School, the Kipohtakaw Education Centre and Swan River First Nation School, the Panel listened to ideas from students, parents, teachers, administrators and elders on how to improve schools and educational experiences.  Here, the link between living in poverty and poor education outcomes, adequate resourcing for transportation and the importance of elder involvement in schools and secondary support organizations were among the subjects discussed. 

At its day-long Roundtable in Edmonton, the Panel listened to input from experts on a range of topics, including how to make quality education more accessible to First Nations students and their families; what a First Nations education system should look like; and what is required to achieve effective management and delivery of First Nations education.

"A quality education is the foundation upon which the future success of our children, communities and nation depends," said Panel Chair, Scott Haldane.  "One of the Panel's goals is to support and help advance the work that First Nations in Alberta, and right across this country, are doing in collaboration with their federal and provincial partners.

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:  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;

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National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education

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