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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 5, March 2006

Aboriginal education survey

by Christine Stewart

BCTF members and staff are working to learn more about the needs and concerns of Aboriginal teachers. The BCTF Research department and the Aboriginal education program, with input from the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, developed a survey for Aboriginal teachers. The advisory committee members had many questions about Aboriginal teachers and what concerns they have related to their profession. They will take the results and use them as catalysts for change. In order for meaningful systemic revision, teachers will need to listen to the survey respondents’ concerns and act for systemic improvement.

Why conduct a survey?
It is our belief that we have more Aboriginal teachers than what has been reported teaching in the system.

According to the latest information we have 280 self-identified Aboriginal teachers working in BC schools. This is a drop from our fall 2001 efforts to update the membership, which identified 325 self-identified Aboriginal teachers. In 2001, the 325 teachers identified made up less than 1% of the more than 36,000 full-time and part-time teachers who were members. The 280 self-identified Aboriginal teachers make up an even smaller percentage of the total teaching force.

We also want to:

  • illuminate the challenges identified by these Aboriginal teachers.
  • update the BCTF database.
  • inform the members of the BCTF policy development.

Distribution of survey
In the fall of 2004, the Aboriginal education program, with the help of the advisory committee, released the survey at the First Nations Education joint UBC Native Indian Teacher Education Program and the BCTF Aboriginal Education Conference.

The advisory committee members also went to First Nations conferences and Aboriginal events, and hand-delivered the survey to their colleagues.

Who responded?
When all the forms had been processed, the total number of respondents was 92. The advisory committee have asked that the surveys be mailed to individuals who have not yet filled it out.

General responses
The responses generated a number of central themes, including the need for improved Aboriginal curriculum, and the need for more Aboriginal teachers in every area of the public school system. The most pressing concern, however, remains racism. It continues to have major impacts on Aboriginal teachers and is clearly a critical area the membership needs to address.

The advisory committee members believe that we need to gather up explicit examples. This would be done not to ostracize members but to illuminate and begin the transformative journey to address the racism that Aboriginal teachers endure on a daily basis.

Our survey results support the findings of the 1997 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal peoples, which states: "The teacher is a role model whose own behavior and attitudes are absorbed by students."

The Royal Commission also recognized that, "While there are many more Aboriginal teachers in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal school systems today than a decade ago, the numbers remain far too low relative to the current and projected need. At least three times as many are needed to achieve parity with the number of non-Aboriginal teachers serving non-Aboriginal children."

Christine Stewart is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division.



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