On June 10, 2011, the Vancouver School Board announced that it is moving forward with its plans for an Aboriginal-Focused School of Choice. This school is scheduled to open, at least partially, as early as September, 2012. The school will focus on quality education by teaching and learning through Aboriginal world views, knowledge, culture and values.
To avoid the mandatory stigma and legacy of residential schooling, the school will be one of choice and will be open to all students, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal – although preference will be given to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, including individuals with Indian status or without status.
VSB trustees have put together a working group to develop short and longer-range implementation plans for the school. The plan is to start small with a cohort of 30 grade 8 students, perhaps using the mini-school model that has been successfully used for other enrichment and alternative programs. Extensive consultation and years of planning have gone into the decision to move ahead with the school. The consultation process which began in January, 2011 was led by UBC’s Dr. Joanne Archibald and included a team of graduate students. Student, parent, staff Forums were held at four different VSB sites between January 21 and January 27 with over 130 individuals sharing feedback, proposals, concerns, and insights. I read the entire report and can tell you that it contains many inspirational and heart-wrenching stories of those who endured the legacy of racism, discrimination, and residential schooling that has long characterized BC’s educational system. Interestingly, a substantial number of Indigenous persons from outside of BC attended the forums and described how they have been involved in successful Aboriginal school implementations on the prairies and the U.S.
The consultation forums focused on the need for Wholistic education, and got into specifics such as those surrounding time-tabling, teacher recruitment, teacher retention, training, physical space, Funding! and mission. There is still considerable work to be done on these issues, but the report on the consultation process is a great resource for anyone interested in authentic, Aboriginal-guided, wholistic approaches to education.
To view the report, please click here: Report on Aboriginal Education Forums