Session 5: Response to Session 4: Inputs from New Zealand, Australia, Ghana and Canada \
Canada – British Columbia
Brian speaks at an event to highlight the significance of acknowledging indigenous territories, particularly in British Columbia (BC). He emphasizes that BC’s approach to this is unique because, unlike other parts of Canada where indigenous territories were settled by treaty, most of BC remains unsettled in this regard.
BC is Canada’s third-largest province by area and population, but it is sparsely populated, with many areas having significant indigenous populations. Overall, 6% of BC’s population identifies as indigenous, with 34 indigenous languages spoken, representing 200 distinct First Nations communities.
In the context of education, Brian points out disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous learners in BC. While 90% of non-indigenous students graduate with a high school diploma, only 72% of indigenous learners do so, although this is an improvement from past rates.
To bridge this gap, BC has taken significant measures:
- Curriculum Change: The education system in BC has undergone a curriculum redesign, emphasizing competency over standard metrics of success. This redesign includes the incorporation of First Peoples Principles of Learning.
- Assessment and Reporting Change: BC has phased out letter grades for students from Kindergarten to Grade 9, focusing instead on a competency-based grading system. High school seniors are now required to complete a course focusing on indigenous education.
- UNDRIP Legislation: In 2019, BC became the first Canadian jurisdiction to pass the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) into law. This legislation aims to indigenize systems and operations throughout the province.
- Educational Priorities: The BC education system is addressing indigenous-specific racism, implementing the indigenous education graduation requirement, improving literacy and numeracy rates among indigenous learners, and looking into effective recruitment and retention strategies for indigenous teachers in the system.
Brian acknowledges the strides made in BC, like the appointment of the first indigenous superintendent of schools, but recognizes there’s much work ahead.
Lastly, Brian draws attention to the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, underscoring the importance of understanding and reconciling with Canada’s challenging past with its indigenous communities.
Canada – Ontario
The Canadian federal legislation known as the Indian Act has historically been problematic for Indigenous peoples, especially regarding how they are identified. Although there have been changes, many believe it remains inadequate in protecting Indigenous rights. This view was contrasted with a more supportive Indigenous rights stance in Finland. The speaker, who is not Indigenous, has collaborated with the Mississaugas of the Credit community in Toronto and asserts that Canada’s legislation isn’t sufficiently protective of Indigenous rights.
In 2008, a group led by Senator Sinclair traveled across Canada to hear stories from residential school survivors and other Indigenous community members. The Indian Act, when it was established, reallocated land and marginalized Indigenous territories. This has led to challenges in preserving traditional teachings, as exemplified by the Mississaugas of the Credit, who had to travel off-reserve to access a river for traditional teachings. Moreover, while schools in Ontario are provincially managed, schools on reserves operate under federal jurisdiction, often with lesser resources.
Seven years later, in 2015, a report with 94 recommendations was released, highlighting areas of improvement in acknowledging and preserving Indigenous rights and culture. Two primary recommendations (#62 & #63) stress the importance of incorporating Indigenous knowledge in the educational system. Despite these recommendations, progress in their implementation has been slow, and efforts vary across provinces. The importance of Indigenous education, which once was prioritized, saw a drop in emphasis but has been gradually regaining attention in recent years.
A significant challenge in Ontario’s education system is the lack of Indigenous language programs, attributed to a shortage of qualified teachers. Nancy Rowe, from the Mississaugas of the Credit, emphasized the evolution of thinking around non-Indigenous individuals teaching Indigenous languages. If non-Indigenous individuals are willing to learn and become fluent, they can act as allies in preserving and transferring the language.
In conclusion, although legislation might not fully support the incorporation of Indigenous rights and education in schools, educators and communities are collaborating to ensure that Indigenous knowledge and traditions are integrated into the learning process. The shift is towards working “with” Indigenous communities rather than imposing upon them.
Before colonization by the British, Ghana had its own system of education that was culturally rooted. Ghana’s traditional education was primarily informal. Despite having over 80 local languages, of which 10 are used in schools as instructional languages, English is the main medium of instruction in Ghana. This transition to English as a primary language of instruction presents challenges, as students must often learn in a language different from their mother tongue.
The educational structure in Ghana starts with two years of kindergarten, then transitions to basic school, and proceeds to upper primary and junior high school. The percentage of instructions in local languages diminishes as students progress. In the basic school system, they start with 90% instruction in local dialects, which eventually decreases to 50% by the end of basic education.
Ghana is composed of 16 regions, each with its own local languages. Instructions in schools are often given in the regional dialects. For senior high school, English is primarily used. The senior high school curriculum varies, offering programs in general science, business, general arts, and visual arts, among others. Core subjects include English, math, integrated science, and social studies.
Ghana emphasizes both academic and moral education. There is a strong push for STEM education as the nation seeks to produce its own engineers. University education typically lasts four years, with specific courses like pharmacy or medicine taking up to seven years.
Discipline and moral education are paramount in Ghanaian schools. Since 2017, the government has adopted a free senior high school education policy, where it covers the expenses for schooling, although this has presented some challenges for school administrators. The importance of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and STEM education are also highlighted in Ghana’s educational system.
Therese, from Aotearoa, New Zealand, introduces herself by reciting her pepeha, a traditional Māori way of introducing oneself, showcasing her connections to the land of Aotearoa and her ancestry. Therese is of bicultural heritage, inheriting her Māori roots from her mother and Irish Catholic roots from her father. She acknowledges the complex dynamic of her identity as both the colonized and the colonizer due to the historical colonization events in both Ireland and New Zealand.
Iti stresses the importance of acknowledging one’s roots, from parents to tribes, mountains, rivers, and genealogy. Indigeneity and the recognition of indigenous education are pivotal, and similar challenges persist in indigenous education across various countries. Therese emphasizes the distinction between Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Australia, and between different organizations in New Zealand, highlighting her affiliation with Te Akatea, which represents Māori principals and leaders.
The organization prioritizes the practices and knowledge that have been effective for their people before colonization. They focus on the founding documents and the aspirations of their tribes, working alongside tribal leaders to nurture the identity of Māori leaders. Established in the 1990s, Te Akatea has undergone various initiatives to understand the needs and expectations of its members and other Māori leaders. Through regional meetings called wānanga, the organization seeks feedback on its direction and purpose.
Therese emphasizes the importance of directly hearing from their people rather than filtered messages. She mentions the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, which symbolizes Māori self-determination and revitalization. Lastly, she speaks about the importance of relationships, especially with the International Confederation of Principals (ICP), expecting mutual growth and benefit. She hopes for open conversations that challenge and help both parties grow for the betterment of their people.