Why BC Leads in Aboriginal Education - C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, Oct. 2, 2013 /CNW/ - British Columbia leads the provinces in educational outcomes for young Aboriginal adults, while Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta lag badly, according to a report released today by the C.D. Howe Institute. In "Why is BC Best? The Role of Provincial and Reserve School Systems in Explaining Aboriginal Student Performance," author John Richards finds that innovative approaches in BC help account for much better high-school completion rates for Aboriginal students, compared to other provinces with large Aboriginal populations.

"British Columbia has made a consistent effort to improve its on-reserve and provincial school systems to tackle this problem over the past 20 years," says Richards. "Other provinces can learn from the BC experience."

Poor education outcomes for Aboriginals in Canada are a critical issue for Aboriginal leaders and the provincial and federal governments, writes Richards. Notably, 60 percent of young Aboriginal adults living on reserves in Canada lack high-school certification. As a result, they face severely limited employment opportunities off-reserve, and limited opportunities on-reserve. Among young Canadians not living on a reserve, those who identify as Indian-First Nation have better education outcomes than those on-reserve, but they are weaker than outcomes for Métis. Non-Aboriginals tend to fare best.

To determine why BC is best, Richards assesses the role of education policies and institutions in Aboriginal K-12 outcomes. He breaks down the young adult Aboriginal population (ages 20-24 at the time of the 2006 census) into subgroups defined by province, location within a province (urban vs. rural and on- vs. off-reserve) and by Aboriginal identity group (non-Aboriginal, Métis, Indian-First Nation). After allowing for the impact of employment rate as a proxy for family characteristics, the author finds that British Columbia has achieved considerably better K-12 student outcomes than the five other provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, with large Aboriginal cohorts.

"At the national level, Aboriginal organizations and Ottawa have reached an impasse over how to move forward on this issue," notes Richards. "My findings suggest that improvements in school organization can make a real difference - both among provincial schools and reserve schools."

Richards identifies three institutional and policy differences between British Columbia and other provinces that may explain its superior outcomes: i) more comprehensive and regular monitoring of Aboriginal student performance in reading, writing and mathematics; ii) incentives for provincial school districts to innovate and consult with local Aboriginal leaders; and iii) the encompassing nature of First Nation institutions providing secondary services to reserve schools.

The C. D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. It is Canada's trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review. It is considered by many to be Canada's most influential think tank.

For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/why-is-bc-best-the-role-of-provincial-and-reserve-school-systems-in-explaining-aboriginal-student-performance/22981

SOURCE: C.D. Howe Institute

For further information:

John Richards, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University and Fellow-in-Residence, C.D. Howe Institute; or Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute. 416-865-1904; email: cdhowe@cdhowe.org


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