Implications for Education

Leroy Little Bear (2009) points out that The Hawthorne Report in the 1960s and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the mid 1990s pointed out the same things – Aboriginal students are not succeeding in the education system. Again, about 10 years later, a Statistics Canada Report in 2005 identified the on-going vicious cycle of poverty, violence, poor health, low education, dysfunction and abuse in many First Nations Communities:


Two metaphors occur repeatedly in the comments of those we interviewed. One is the notion of a complex web—a web of poverty, racism, drugs, gangs, and violence. The other is the notion of a cycle—people caught in a cycle of interrelated problems. Both suggest the idea people who are caught, trapped, immobilized, unable to escape, destined to struggle with forces against which they cannot win, from which they cannot extricate themselves. The result is despair, resignation, anger, hopelessness, which then reinforces the cycle, and wrap them tighter in the web.

(Statistics Canada Report 2005, p. ?ref from LLIttle Bear)


Problems in the education system in Canada are widespread, but the statistics for Aboriginal students are alarming: drop out rate is 60% for Inuit and on-reserve FN students; 43% for urban aboriginals compared to grad rate of 90% for non-aboriginal Canadians; 7% of FN people have University degrees compared to about 25% of non-Aboriginal Canadians, low employment, no role models, poor perception of possibilities, emotional barriers from residential schools, poverty, and substance abuse – Aboriginal suicide rates are 6 times national average (ref?_)(Ken MacQueen, 2011, p.72).  check!


The Canadian government seems to have realized very late that the Aboriginal population is growing at six times the rate of the general population and that they should really do something about education, even if its for the economy! Using this approach, Shawn Atleo, Chief of AFN, says “If we were to close the education and labour market gap, in one generation it could result in $400 billion in additional output to the Canadian economy and $115 billion in saved government expenditures.” (MacQueen 2011, p. 74)


Battiste (2005) points out that fallout from the Residential school era has left many dysfunctional families emotionally traumatized, distrustful of externally imposed education and government interventions, all of which is now negatively impacting aboriginal students success in Canada.  Public schools have since perpetuated “damaging myths about Aboriginal Cultures, languages, beliefs and ways of life.” (p. 9) The education system has established western scientific and technical knowledge as the dominant mode of thinking, and has followed an agenda that denies validity of Aboriginal cultures in Canada. Government policies have maintained First Nation communities as internal colonies, impoverished and neglected, without adequate housing or education funding, and little political or economic power. Battiste asks the big question – “Is it possible to create an educational system that is respectful of FN ways of knowing and also integrates western knowledge systems?”

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