Reform Agenda Needed for Failing First Nation Reserve Schools - C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, Jan. 28, 2016 /CNW/ - Major reforms are needed to address Canada's failing reserve schools, according to a new C.D. Howe Institute report. In "Students in Jeopardy: An Agenda for Improving Results in Band-Operated Schools," authors Barry Anderson and John Richards provide a blueprint to reverse the high drop-out rates in reserve schools.

The performance of band-operated, on-reserve schools, while much better than the residential schools they replaced, remains very weak in comparison with provincial schools. Among young adults aged 20-24, only four in 10 First Nation young adults living on-reserve graduated from high school. In stark contrast, nine of 10 young adult non-Aboriginals have at least high school, as do eight of 10 Métis and seven of 10 First Nation living off-reserve.

The core problem in reserve schools is low-quality results on both core academic and culturally relevant subjects, say the authors. In order to avoid a repeat of the failed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (C-33), the government should take the following seven steps:

  1. Embark on a feasible strategy to address national budgeting for reserve schools, starting with an interim budget that offers an approximate 35 percent premium over average per-student spending in provincial public schools;
  2. Switch emphasis from inputs, such as requiring the use of provincial curricula, to outcomes, like testing outcomes on reading, arithmetic and relevant cultural studies, and following up on students' success after they go to other schools;
  3. Affirm band responsibilities by having each school and community develop its own plan to improve student results;
  4. Regionalize the professional capacity of the federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs ministry;
  5. Seek incremental improvements to results as opposed to encompassing reforms; there are no "silver bullets";
  6. Designate a small portion of funding to reward schools for improved results; and
  7. Create access to second-level services, such as technology support, student counselling, and staff development.

Anderson and Richards conclude: "Each year sees another cohort of students who have passed through a failing system and another new cohort of students entering the same system. Reconciliation and common sense require that improvements be made – and made quickly."

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. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

For the report go to:

SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute

For further information: Barry Anderson, former senior official with the BC Education Ministry; John Richards, Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University and Fellow-in-Residence, C.D. Howe Institute: 416-865-1904 or email:


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