Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Canada has about 110,000 children of aboriginal identity under the age of five. Based on current conditions, we could expect that most will live in poverty and that only half will graduate from high school.



There are many reasons for this discouraging outlook, and not the least is the sad fact that there is no first-nation school system. "Most First Nation schools are stuck in the old model of the village school that existed prior to rural school consolidation."



No wonder National Chief Shawn Atleo has made education his first priority, despite all the setbacks on education reform since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples set out the blueprint in 1996.

Story continues below advertisement

Slowly, but with increasing confidence, First Nations, provinces and the federal government are now converging on the creation of school systems that can offer the quality of education that will support a radical increase in high school completion. And we know that once first-nation youth complete high school, about 75 per cent will go on to post-secondary education. This is close to the national average for all young Canadians.



In recent weeks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to meet with first-nation leaders to discuss education issues, and the federal government has made two modest but encouraging announcements. The first was an offer to partner with first nation-operated schools in British Columbia that are ready to adopt similar standards to those being implemented in provincial schools governed by the B.C. First Nations Education Authority. The second was a national consultation on options to make "concrete and positive changes for first-nation students," including the possibility of new legislation.



No one should underestimate the potential impact of these developments for the children themselves, for the economy of western Canada or for the fiscal position of federal and provincial governments.



Everyone who has any influence on the governments and first-nations leaders should be pressing the case for effective schools – those on reserve and in the provincial system. Employers in particular can advocate for reform while creating more concrete incentives for first-nation students to stay in school – scholarships, internships and jobs.



The required reforms are complex. They involve federal and provincial legislation, new funding formulas, and the creation of new education institutions -- school districts and regional education centres. B.C. is in the vanguard, and it's time for others to step up to the plate.



Looking beyond the legal and jurisdictional challenges, four overarching reforms are essential:

  • Culturally-appropriate learning experiences in the classroom and in pre-schools,
  • Consistent measurement of student progress,
  • A new institutional framework for education, and
  • Clear pathways to higher education and employment.


First-nations children who are "rooted in their culture" are strong students. Schools and educators have to reinforce students' cultural identity by working with elders and parents to create appropriate curricula and teaching practices.

Story continues below advertisement



To sustain support from families and others in the community, schools must issue regular reports on education outcomes and use the reports to drive improvements where needed.



The new institutional framework is needed because cultural adaptation and regular tracking of outcomes are beyond the capacity of the small schools on first-nation reserves and in rural areas.



First nations need to exploit economies of scale created by school districts, giving them scope to develop curriculum, train teachers, test results, be legally accountable to families and students and otherwise support a number of schools in the same region.



This could be first nations' Quiet Revolution. But they cannot do it alone – they need action and sustained support from Ottawa and the provinces and from all of us. It's an opportunity not to be missed.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies