A new aboriginal curriculum is set to roll out at the start of the next school year. Today more than 700 educators and members of First Nations communities gathered at the Civic Centre to learn more about it.
According to School District 57’s Aboriginal Education Department, almost one third of students in the district have aboriginal heritage. They say that’s why it’s important First Nations teaching methods and history are integrated into schools.
Aboriginal Education Department Manager Shelly Niemi welcomed the crowd at today’s symposium. Speaking about the changes that will come starting in September.
“It’s not going to be just specific to social studies. We’re going to see it in math we’re going to see it in science, in history, so it’s a real great opportunity for us now to see more indigenous knowledge and perspectives being embedded in all core curriculum from kindergarten right to grade 12. For a long time in education there wasn’t a lot of First Nations perspectives or history’s or truths. And this is the first time that we’re actually being very open with it and being inclusive of it.”
Interim Superintendent of Schools Sharon Cairns looks forward to seeing the changes roll out.
“This is pretty exciting stuff because I think once it’s understood how to integrate the curriculum then you’ll see much greater progress as well.”
One topic addressed was graduation rates of aboriginal students versus non-aboriginal students. Last year the school district had it’s highest graduation rate of aboriginal students to date at 61 per cent. Shelly Niemi hopes that with the integration of aboriginal teaching methods that number will increase.
“I think that number one as a system we need to talk about data and we need to understand why is there that gap. And so once we can start to have that conversation in a safe way I think we can deconstruct what that looks like and how can we do better as a collective system.”
Ultimately, the goal of the department to close the graduation gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal students.
And according to Neimi, everyone stands to benefit from the changes.
“All students and all teachers are actually going to benefit from being inclusive of the first peoples and better understanding indigenous education.”