An Indigenous Education

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 12, 2009 Ed Cartoon

Over the past week, delegates from Western, in conjunction with The National Association of Friendship Centres and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, have been in Ottawa hosting the third annual Aboriginal Policy Research Conference.

The four-day long gathering focused on bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from across Canada.

While participants have discussed a number of subjects, on its most fundamental level the conference addresses a crucial topic â€" how to provide First Nations Canadians with the best opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

For a variety of reasons, university enrollment numbers for Indigenous Canadians is low â€" and we should not assume that those who choose not to attend a post-secondary institution are wrong for doing so. Cultural factors, for example, cause many individuals to pursue other opportunities in life.

However, universities should make their best efforts to provide any student who identifies with a particular Indigenous community in Canada with the best services possible.

Western’s Indigenous Services currently offers a wide variety of programs for First Nations students, but its office is not easily accessible. As a result, many Western students are unaware of its location or the services it offers.

How First Nations studies is taught is also an issue at Canadian universities.

Western, for example, currently offers no graduate programs in First Nations Studies and has struggled to retain its honours specialization undergraduate program. Though the university’s budget faces sizeable constraints, more resources must be put into the program to ensure it does not run the risk of folding entirely.

On a more general level, a more concerted effort must be made for First Nations education to be integrated into the public school system across Canada.

While going to school many students have limited exposure to Indigenous culture, learning largely about European perspectives on Aboriginal culture.

Having Aboriginal culture integrated into more classes at the primary and secondary school level will serve the dual purpose of enabling more students to be aware of First Nations in Canada as well as potentially spurring greater interest among students in First Nations Studies at the post-secondary level.

Overall, the debate over how to improve educational opportunities for Indigenous Canadians is complicated, with difficulties ranging from how to define terms such as Aboriginal to determining how curriculum should be set.

The discussion is further complicated by the history between First Nations and other communities in Canada â€" a history marred by controversy and mistrust.

Though these factors have persisted for years, it is crucial to no longer shy away from these debates and work towards resolving long-standing problems.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette