Current Indigenous Top Ten
May 18, 2016
Indspire President Roberta Jamieson says that, while she welcomes Canada’s $2.6 B commitment to primary and secondary education for Indigenous learners, she is concerned about the lack of new funding to support postsecondary studies for this same group. The 2016 federal budget says that Canada will work with Indigenous groups to “explore how to best ensure that students wishing to pursue postsecondary studies have the resources and supports they need to pursue their dreams,” yet Jamieson asserts that it attaches no new funding to this objective. “The myth is that our people get their education paid from cradle to grave,” Jamieson told the National Post, “but it’s simply not true.” Indspire reported that last year, it could only afford to fulfill 16% of the $90 M in funding requests it received, disbursing $14.4 M in bursaries to First Nations students.
A new report by education advocacy group People for Education calls on the Ontario government to make training on Indigenous issues mandatory for all future teachers. The report, Moving Toward Reconciliation in Ontario’s Schools, recognizes the province’s efforts to close the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, but reveals that goals for closing the gap will not be met this target year. According to the report, more schools are providing professional development for educators, more are consulting with Indigenous community members, and more are inviting Indigenous guest speakers to school events. Although these increases are occurring at both the elementary and high school levels, elementary schools have a much lower rate of participation in these activities.
Dalhousie University has created an affiliated campus centre for Indigenous students and established its first full-time Aboriginal student advisor position. The initiatives are the product of an existing MOU between Dal and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) that aims to support Indigenous students at the university from a holistic perspective. The centre will host social events, cultural and academic workshops, and other supports and will be aligned with Dal’s student services programs in order to boost the retention and success of Indigenous students and to establish collaborative partnerships with community stakeholders. CMM will remain closely affiliated with the new centre and will have a seat on a new Aboriginal Student Success Advisory Committee at Dal. The university recently established an Elders-in-residence program also.
The Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program has failed to meet its internal requirements for the hiring of women, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and Indigenous Canadians, reports the Globe and Mail. Last month, the program’s steering committee sent a letter to university presidents expressing concern about the “very slow progress” that has been made in fostering diversity among the program’s 1,880 regular chairs. University of Ottawa Law Professor and recent chair holder Amir Attaran has called for greater pressure on universities to step up their efforts, adding that, “if the universities who are persistent systemic discriminators do not want to rise to equality, then the federal government needs to take away their inequality by removing chairs and funding from them.”
Trent University has received ministry approval for its new Bachelor of Education in Indigenous Education degree and is prepared to welcome the first cohort in the fall. The five-year program will include three years of general studies and two years of professional studies and will integrate Indigenous ways of knowing into all curriculum areas. Offered jointly by Trent's School of Education and Professional Learning and the Department of Indigenous Studies, the program offers direct entry from high school or through transfer agreements with colleges and First Nations education institutes and will provide students with credit for prior learning. “A critical factor in improving Indigenous students' academic success is the presence of teachers who understand how Indigenous students learn and the challenges that they face,” said David Newhouse, Chair of Indigenous Studies at Trent.
Prince Edward Island has added a component on residential schools to high school social studies curriculum to which all provincial students will be exposed. The new course, "Practicing Reconciliation through Education," explores the history and legacy of residential schools, drawing links between the schools and current Indigenous issues. "We wanted to really work [in] … the intergenerational impact of Indian residential schools, so it's really just not a history piece," said Bethany Doiron, a curriculum specialist with PEI’s Department of Education. The course was developed in partnership with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy and will be delivered to all grade 9 students in the province. PEI’s K–12 social studies curriculum has more than 75 outcomes related to Indigenous knowledge intertwined throughout, ensuring all students and educators are introduced to these topics.
Algonquin College recently launched a one-year Indigenous Cook pre-apprenticeship program through its School of Hospitality and Tourism. The program will see up to 20 students applying skills such as food theory, classical kitchen language, and practical food preparation to the creation of traditional Indigenous meals. Wes Wilkinson, Academic Manger of the School of Hospitality and Tourism, noted that “the feedback and response from the Indigenous community—across the country—has been overwhelmingly positive, as a means of reconnecting with their tradition while receiving valuable skills they can bring back to reserve or to the culinary industry.”
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has announced recipients of the recent round of PromoScience funding. PromoScience provides up to three years of funding to organizations working with Canadian youth to encourage an understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Many of the recipient programs provide science outreach to Aboriginal students and communities. This year’s funding recipients include the Kamskénow program at the University of Saskatchewan, the Trent Aboriginal and Cultural Knowledge and Science (TRACKS) Program at Trent University, the RBC Youth BIOlab Jeunesse at St Boniface Hospital, Girls Exploring Physics at Simon Fraser University, and five projects at UBC. Further, the NSERC Award for Science Promotion was awarded to Elephant Thoughts Educational Outreach, a science outreach program that works with Indigenous youth and “acts as a force for self-sustaining change.”
The Nunavut government has launched a series of workshops designed to educate public employees about the legacy of residential schools. Top-level bureaucrats, including all deputy and assistant deputy ministers, will take part in the training. Additional workshops are planned for the next school year for teachers, principals, and policymakers. The workshops embrace Inuit ways of knowing by having residential school survivors come in and speak to the attendees personally, as opposed to simply providing educational resources. "The residential school survivors are the parents and now the grandparents of our children and if one doesn't heal, then that effect carries on. It's like a ripple effect," said Education Minister Paul Quassa of the need for the workshops.
Thompson Rivers University has signed an articulation agreement with AFOA Canada that will allow certain AFOA graduates to apply credits to business degrees at TRU. Under the new arrangement, graduates of the Certified Aboriginal Financial Managers and Certified Aboriginal Professional Administrators programs can apply credits towards TRU’s Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Commerce, or Bachelor of Public Administration. “The new partnership supports TRU’s strategic priority of promoting diversity, inclusion, and intercultural understanding with the Aboriginal community. It also greatly expands Aboriginal educational opportunities in the areas of Aboriginal self-governance and economic development,” said Dan Thompson, TRU’s Associate Dean of the School of Business and Economics. AFOA recently signed similar agreements with Cape Breton University and Nipissing University.