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PRIORITIES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

A Brief to the Ministry of Education from the BC Teachers’ Federation, August 2017 

Aboriginal Education and 
Infusing Aboriginal Ways of Knowing

The issue

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is actively working with our members, students, families, and communities throughout the province to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, in particular those pertaining to education. The BCTF also supports implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We applaud the Ministry of Education’s efforts to ensure the infusion of Aboriginal content and perspectives throughout the K–12 curriculum. The continued success of this work relies upon a collaboratively developed provincial action plan, with clear end goals, to ensure that in-service and learning resources reflective of all 198 First Nations in BC are developed and readily accessible for all grade levels and all subject areas in BC schools. The BCTF supports the new standard being contemplated by the BC Teachers’ Council, which has a focus on the needs of Aboriginal learners.

Background

The BCTF has been deeply involved in educating our members about the history and intergenerational legacy of residential schools. We have also developed many workshops for teachers, such as Infusing Aboriginal Content, Deconstructing Myths, and Indigenous Perspectives. The Federation has developed a strong network of Aboriginal contacts throughout BC, and these teachers are working hard to keep up with the high demand for these professional development experiences to enrich their teaching. The BCTF, along with the First Nations Education Steering Committee and others, is a member of the K–12 Aboriginal Education Partners table. Many shared goals (including employment equity for Aboriginal teachers, improving Aboriginal graduation rates and transition rates of Aboriginal students into post-secondary, and plans to address systemic racism) are discussed and worked on together at that table.

Key recommendation

Recommendation 1

Work with all partners to develop a provincial action plan, with clear end goals, for the infusion of Aboriginal ways of knowing across all aspects of BC’s education system. This plan must: 

  1. adopt an approach to infusing Aboriginal ways of knowing that is relevant to the local community and nations involved. First Nations have long supported having an increased role in their children’s education. This action is essential to ensure that all students in BC schools, our future leaders, receive an education that gives them not only a comprehensive understanding of our collective history, but of the nation(s) on whose traditional and ancestral territories they learn, play, and live.
  2. fund and make readily accessible locally developed resources that honour and respect the many First Nations in the province.
  3. provide time for in-service that supports teachers, regardless of where they work in the province, to act on our responsibility to promote an education for decolonization and reconciliation.
  4. adopt the recommendation made by the BCTF, First Nations Education Steering Committee, BC School Trustees Association, and others to make an Aboriginal-themed course a graduation requirement for all students.
  5. develop an antiracism plan to address the experiences of Aboriginal students, parents, and staff.

Further reading

Beyond Words, Creating Racism-Free Schools for Aboriginal Learners

Gladys We Never Knew: The life of a child in a BC Indian Residential School

Project of Heart: Illuminating the hidden history of Indian Residential Schools in BC

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