“Historic” agreement for Indigenous education

An agreement in principle described as “historic” between Ottawa and the First Nation paves the way for a “substantial” increase in funding for schools on the reserves and for more autonomy for Aboriginals. people to manage their education system.

According to what The duty Known, this agreement was accepted with open arms by the 22 Indigenous communities of Quebec, who have called for measures to protect their languages ​​and culture for many years to come. Approval of the agreement by each of the band councils must be done by the end of June.

The move follows a commitment by the Trudeau government to “decolonize education” following the trauma of residential schools, designed to assimilate Aboriginal youth. The discovery of tombs anonymous near these religious schoolsfor a year, sheds brilliant light on the violence of the system against the First People.

“We have experienced trauma, but now we are in a good position to improve the funding and management of our schools,” confirmed Denis Gros-Louis, Executive Director of the First Nations Education Council (FNEC), representing this 22 Aboriginal communities in. Quebec.

Mr. Gros-Louis declined to disclose details of the agreement with Ottawa, which should be disclosed in the coming weeks, but he recalled the magnitude of the First Nation’s needs regarding education. Federal funding has since frozen to 1996 levels, he said. In addition, the majority of on-reserve students drop out of school before graduating from high school, the Office of the Auditor General determined in 2018.

“Diploma credentials”

Aboriginal reserves are under Ottawa, which funds the services, but band councils have to take a tour de force: following Quebec’s education system while teaching their ancestral languages ​​and traditions.

Quebec’s First Nation follows the Ministry of Education’s program to “guarantee the credibility of diplomas”, Denis Gros-Louis explained. Aboriginal students must take end -of -year ministerial exams, as do other children in Quebec. This allows them to continue their education anywhere in Quebec, for example if their parents move.

However, Aboriginal communities have the freedom to adapt some programs to their context. For example, they do not build kindergartens for 4-year-olds, which, in their opinion, places great emphasis on learning and is not enough for the children’s enjoyment. First Nations, however, trains parents to help their 4-year-olds learn about numbers and letters through play.

FNEC also produces school materials tailored to local realities: children can learn math by counting tree leaves or bustard flights.

Language teaching also requires expensive adaptations, Denis Gros-Louis explains. In Kahnawake, for example, the Mohawk language is taught by the elderly. They need the support of young teachers who are proficient in pedagogy. Two people in the class, which doubles the cost of education.

A bridge between cultures

Aboriginal youth need to feel valued at school-an area that has long been hostile to them-emphasizes Marie-Marthe Malec, education consultant at Cégep de Sept-Îles. This Innu from Natashquan has pursued a teaching career for 35 years. He knew Gilles Vigneault very well. Marie-Marthe Malec sees herself as a “bridge between cultures”.

“When I became a teacher, I was worried. I had to follow the education program in Quebec. After five or six years, I said to myself: “Wow! I will start integrating my culture into my teaching, ‘”he said this week during a symposium on the indigenization of education at Ahuntsic College, in northern Montreal.

This pioneer was wary of the label “behavioral disorder” or learning disorder attached to Aboriginal students. On the face of it, he considered that these children may have difficulties with teaching methods that are not well adapted to their reality.

“Education for Aboriginal people is ‘see and do’. Don’t give time lectures, you lose it. We don’t listen! We have to experiment. Don’t teach a recipe by doing. -as to put 100 milliliters of it and 200 milliliters of that, instead of making the recipe with young people, they will understand, ”he said.

The language of instruction can create an additional barrier to the success of Aboriginal students, Denis Gros-Louis points out. French or English is usually the second or third language of these children. For example, Innu and Atikamekw speak first and foremost their ancestral language. They will immediately learn French. For the Mohawks, who are mostly Anglophones, French is the problem.

Mr. Gros-Louis lamented that Bill 96, which was recently adopted, degraded Aboriginal languages, which, according to him, threatened the success of First Nations students.

Julie Gauthier, professor of anthropology at Ahuntsic College – which is organizing this week’s symposium on the indigenization of education – saluted the federal government’s readiness to help First Nations. But we have to keep going, he said.

“The natives are acting. We can’t stop them. If we don’t give them their own educational determination, they will take it away, ”he believes.

He noted that the First Nation did not have the same concept of time for most. The path to Aboriginal education may extend for a period different from that provided by the current basic school system. Students can, for example, go into the woods for hunting season and return later to the school benches – with impunity. Methods of evaluating learning are also likely to be adapted. It is up to Aboriginal countries to determine their needs, Julie Gauthier emphasizes.

To be seen in the video

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