Oliver M Smith Kawenni:io Elementary School located on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reservation, Ohsweken, Ontario. (The Canadian Press)John Richards, one of the study's authors, said any attempt at reform needs to be multi-pronged and more incremental than earlier attempts at sweeping, legislative solutions. "There's no silver bullet here. Giving more money won't fix it all," Richards said in an interview, adding that an increase in funding is still an essential part of any viable plan to improve on-reserve schools. The study called "Students in Jeopardy: An Agenda for Improving Results in Band-Operated Schools" highlights the many repercussions stemming from low levels of education, including unemployment, poverty, limited social and economic opportunities, crime, health problems and ongoing dependence on government for housing.
B.C. in the lead
Richards attributed B.C.'s relative success to several factors, including the presence of a provincewide aboriginal education group that acts as a pseudo-school board, as well as collaboration between B.C.'s First Nations Education Steering Committee, the province and the federal government. He spoke against focusing immediately on legislation as a solution, referencing the high-profile failures of the Kelowna Accord a decade ago and, more recently, Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act that drew loud opposition from the aboriginal community. "The diversity of viewpoints among First Nation leaders and the often poorly informed positions advanced in Parliament mean that legislative reserve-school reform has become a Sisyphean exercise," the report read. Instead, Richards pushed for incremental change by increasing reserve-school funding, setting clear and measurable targets, regularly assessing those targets and affirming band responsibilities. "A prerequisite to improving reserve schools is to acknowledge First Nations' legitimate distrust of government, rooted in Canada's efforts to dismantle aboriginal languages and cultures, in particular through residential schools," reads the report.
"There's no silver bullet here. Giving more money won't fix it all."
Feds to make 'significant' investments
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