Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simpson column on Aboriginal education

Excellent column yesterday in the Globe and Mail about First Nations and the education system. Jeffrey Simpson, in lauding recently-elected AFN head Shawn Atleo, discusses the challenges in closing the gap between Aboriginal Canadians and the mainstream when it comes to education. Read it here:

Some interesting points. Simpson challenges the traditional AFN call for more funding for First Nation education. Yes, there is a funding gap as far as we can see and it should be dealt with. Anything less is discriminatory. But, Simpson raises important points about other factors that place First Nations behind, such as living in an isolated reserve enviroment. There are also issues of how much parental involvement one has in their education and the how much community and family value formal education. Those aspects would need to change as much as per capita education funding.
Simpson also points to the amazing role model that Atleo would be as an accomplished educator in B.C. He earned his master of education and gave a high ranking to education in his AFN platform. I think education is absolutely critical for First Nations, but I would add the priviso that it depends on what First Nations are being educated in.
At the recent AFN annual general meeting, I heard an excellent talk from a representative with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association. He mentioned the problem being that indigenous youth all wanted to go into law, social work or another similar field, whereas the needs on reserves are in financial managers (self-serving to his point but nonetheless spot on). This lack of capacity could explain what become financial impropriety. I would add to his list entrepreneurs and business leaders. First Nation parents should encourage their children to go into these useful roles, as these are the true "nation building" functions.

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