Current Crisis

While the federal government (AANDC) is still responsible for delivering education to Aboriginal students, it has largely acted as a regulator and financier in recent years. This means that they have reduced their role to the point where they expect band-run schools to meet the standards of the provinces that they are in.  Forcing provincial standards in a federal jurisdiction causes many problems, for both the schools involved and for the AANDC. For the schools, it forces them into a situation where they do not have autonomy over a vital service and do not have easy access to the bureaucracy in charge. For the AANDC this system makes implementing small changes to individual schools or regions extremely difficult as they have no real connection to the individual problems that a school or community might be facing.

This chart shows the highest level of education for on-reserve Aboriginals compared to the rest of Canada. A high school diploma is by far the highest with over 40% whereas less than 5% of on-reserve Aboriginals have a university degree. As R.J Kowalchuk demonstrates, many people living on-reserve do not even graduate high school. http://www.vitalsignscanada.ca/en/findings-54-learning-aboriginal-high-school-completion

This chart shows the highest level of education for on-reserve Aboriginals compared to the rest of Canada. A high school diploma is by far the highest with over 40% whereas less than 5% of on-reserve Aboriginals have a university degree. As R.J Kowalchuk demonstrates, many people living on-reserve do not even graduate high school. Source

In 2008, the AANDC completed a study that demonstrated how poorly Aboriginal students and schools were performing compared to the rest of the country, educators complained about a general lack of supplies and substandard facilities while administrators bemoaned the difficulties of finding qualified instructors. The results from students were shocking and indicated the need for a major policy shift. Literacy rates and test scores were far below the national average and graduation rates for band run schools had a national average of just 27% in 2007. In addition to poor graduation rates, Danielle Lamb of Ryerson University identified a startling trend in the success of Aboriginal students living on reserves compared to off-reserve. The number of 18-25 year olds who left school early was over twice the number compared to students who went to a provincial school (64.5%-29.3% respectively). Simultaneously the employment rate for the same demographic was almost twice as high for students who attended provincial schools, 60.9%-31.6% in favour of provincially educated students. As the students aged, both statistics became significantly worse.

Currently, Aboriginal administrators and educators who work for band-run schools have very little control over their own curriculum. They are forced to adhere to provincial standards and for the most part do not have the ability to teach their own language, history, or address specific learning issues within individual classes. This has led to complaints from the Assembly of First Nations and Aboriginal community leaders who claim that the Aboriginal culture is being significantly challenged and is incapable of being resurrected within the provincial guidelines. Lamb’s study is evidence of this as she demonstrates that only 19.73% of Aboriginals who are 18 years or older and living on-reserves are able to speak an Aboriginal dialect as a second language whereas only 9.13% of Aboriginals living off-reserve are capable of speaking an Aboriginal language.This is an important statistic as it demonstrates that the failure of the First Nation education system to maintain such a vital part of Aboriginal culture.

Kowalchuk, R.J. “Comparison of the DIAND Funding Formula for Education with the Saskatchewan Provincial Funding Formula”. Address to Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. March 6, 2013

Simeone, Tonina. “Current and Emerging Issues for the 41st Parliament: Social Affairs: First Nations Education”. Library of Parliament. 2011. 22-23

House of Commons of Canada. “Bill C-33.” http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=6532106&File=14.  Second Session, Forty-First Parliament. First Reading April 10, 2014

Next (The AANDC Responds)

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