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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 2, October 2004

Aboriginal education enhancement agreements

by Christine Stewart

The Ministry of Education provides about $45 million a year—$950 per student—for Aboriginal education. The funds support Aboriginal language and culture programs, Aboriginal support service programs, and other localized Aboriginal education programs.

An enhancement agreement, between a school district and all local Aboriginal communities, supports co-operative and collaborative relationships between Aboriginal communities and the school district. It involves shared decision-making.

To date, the Ministry of Education Aboriginal Education Enhancements Branch has 12 signed agreements across the province. Every district is to have an agreement or be in the early stages by 2005.

It is very important to involve the entire school district community in the process. The Aboriginal district resource teacher should not be expected to wear both hats. It would be appropriate to send a local table officer. The local rep can be there to support the resource teacher and provide a voice for teachers.

The nine elements to be incorporated into the enhancement agreements address specific performance and delivery expectations for all Aboriginal learners.

The following is a description of essential elements for the development of EAs, and the content within Enhancement Agreements themselves:

Both the Aboriginal communities and the school district support participation in the Enhancement Agreement.

The Aboriginal communities are represented by a unified body (e.g., an Aboriginal Education Council—AEC) whose authority to represent them is accepted by the Aboriginal communities. (Note that "Aboriginal Education Council" is a collective term for the group that has the acceptance of the Aboriginal communities to represent them. It is recognized that school districts and Aboriginal communities use a variety of terms to refer to these groups—Aboriginal Education Committee, First Nations Council, etc. It is important that the AEC be representative of all of the Aboriginal communities within the school district.)

  • Shared decision making by the Aboriginal communities and the school district becomes an established practice.
  • The parties to the Enhancement Agreement develop joint consultation and collaboration mechanisms, articulate a vision, and set goals in all areas of education for all Aboriginal learners.
  • The Aboriginal communities and the school district track key indicators of student performance.
  • The Aboriginal communities and the school district commit to regular reporting of results, including evaluation and reporting on the outcomes of the Enhancement Agreements.
  • The scope of the Aboriginal Education program includes a focus on continuous improvement in the academic performance of all Aboriginal students.
  • There is a focus on meeting the cultural needs of Aboriginal students in all subject areas and with reference to all aspects of teaching and learning, including the choice of learning resources, instructional strategies, and assessment procedures.
  • There is a focus throughout the district on increasing everyone’s knowledge of, and respect for, Aboriginal culture, language, and history, to facilitate better public understanding of Aboriginal people.

(From www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/ agreements/ea_guide.pdf)

To see if your district has an agreement or to read other districts’ agreements, visit www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/agreements/agreements.htm.

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

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