CMEC EDUCATORS' FORUM ON ABORIGINAL EDUCATION
Sharing Evidence and Experiences in Aboriginal Early- Childhood and K–12 Education: Programs, Policies, and Practices for Student Success

Winnipeg, Manitoba
December 1–3, 2011
University of Winnipeg

BACKGROUND

As follow-up to the call for case study presentations in June 2011, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) Educators' Forum on Aboriginal Education brought together a wide range of stakeholders in Aboriginal education ― from educators and academics to government officials and representatives of Aboriginal organizations ― to talk about what works for Aboriginal learners in early- childhood education (ECE) and K–12 education.

The forum was participant-driven and structured around a series of case-study presentations on promising programs, policies, and practices. Case studies addressed the themes identified at the 2009 CMEC Summit on Aboriginal Education:

  • Strengthening Aboriginal Language and Culture
  • Enhancing Equity in Funding
  • Increasing Access, Retention, and Graduation (postsecondary and adult learning)
  • Sharing Responsibility and Accountability
  • Planning for Transitions: Seamless Systems for Learners
  • Reporting and Benchmarking Success: Data
  • Providing Programs and Services
  • Engaging All Partners in First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Education

Forum participants examined programs, policies, and practices that have been shown to be effective in improving one or more aspects of Aboriginal ECE and/or K–12 education, including:

  • improved academic outcomes;
  • increased community wellness;
  • increased student well‐being, self‐confidence, identity, values, pride, personal development, and competence;
  • a positive link to employment;
  • increased participation in the education system;
  • active participation in community life.

WHY A FORUM?

To address persistent issues within Aboriginal education and to share ideas, evidence, and experiences in Aboriginal early childhood education (ECE) and K–12 education with respect to programs, policies, and practices for student success, a public forum was thought to be appropriate to bring together key stakeholders for discussion.

The issues:

Despite many gains across provinces and territories in recent years, student dropout rates among Aboriginal youth remain high, and the transition rate from secondary school to postsecondary education remains low. At the same time, the number of young Aboriginal people is rapidly increasing, with a forecast that in the next 15 to 20 years, Aboriginal students will represent over 25 per cent of the elementary student population in some provinces and territories. In Nunavut, Inuit already represent 96 per cent of the student population.

Along with the rapid growth in the number of Aboriginal children and youth in the school systems, several other factors present ongoing challenges:

  • Aboriginal students, both male and female, perform at lower levels than other students — and this gap is not closing fast enough.
  • Transience levels are very high for Aboriginal students, as individuals and families move frequently on‐ and off‐reserve.
  • The number of well‐trained Aboriginal teachers remains low.
  • Existing curricula and teaching methods do not sufficiently reflect Aboriginal needs and values.

SUMMARY

The CMEC Educators' Forum on Aboriginal Education was a success in that it brought together stakeholders from across the nation to engage in face‐to‐face dialogue, exchange ideas with their colleagues and peers, and build networks in the field of Aboriginal ECE and K–12 education.

Ministers of education remain committed to addressing these issues at the pan-Canadian level — through activities such as this forum — to encourage knowledge mobilization and transfer, facilitate dialogue, and create new partnerships.