BC teachers set aside six professional days, and now one of those days will focus on Aboriginal education. The BC government has decided to introduce Aboriginal history and culture as part of the curriculum. Residential schools and the effect they had on Native culture would be part of the history courses.
Peter Fassbender, BC Education Minister, noted that this is the first time teachers have made Aboriginal education a priority and are implementing courses that will give non-Native students a deeper understanding of Aboriginal history. This in turn should also help students understand the complexity of Native society and what they have endured to survive.
Fassbender’s ”call for action” is a reaction to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission really showed us the urgent need we have to move forward in a very positive way,” the Education Minister told the CBC. “We will be sharing the truth of what happened. You can’t have reconciliation unless you understand the truth behind it. You don’t know where you are going unless you know where you came from. To have all of our young people understand some of the tragedies that took place will begin to help enhance the healing process.”
The Aboriginal student population in BC is 66,000 and makes up 10% of the total student population. Unfortunately they also make up 50% of children in government care or foster homes, and 60% of these students do not graduate from school. “The education system for many Aboriginal children and youth in B.C. is a broken system,” youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond told the CBC. “We are seeing far too many Aboriginal children in B.C. not in school.” Fassbender is hoping the new curriculum and an understanding of Aboriginal history, along with collaboration with First Nations Educators giving input on the education process, may inspire more Native students to complete high school.
Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad was enthusiastic. “There’ll be everything from having an opportunity to learn a little bit about indigenous plants an animals. There might be also opportunities around concepts of environmental stewardship, to go along with history of residential schools and other components of our interactions over the years.”