Fraser Institute report pits First Nations schools against public schools

Fraser Institute report finds on-reserve schools don't meet provincial educational standards, but B.C. First Nations advocate disagrees.

A Fraser Institute report on aboriginal schools, released Thursday, was a slap in the face for B.C.’s on-reserve schools.

The report, Myths and Realities of First Nations Education, highlighted a lack of structure, over funding, and abysmal graduation rates compared to public schools.

Many on-reserve schools don’t meet provincial educational standards, the study found.

It noted on-reserve graduation rates averaged below 40 per cent compared to over 75 per cent in provincial schools. It also found that national per-student funding for First Nations on-reserve students is equal to, or in some provinces, more than funding for all other Canadian students.

However, Tyrone McNeil, president of the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) said the report is a blatant misrepresentation of fact for on-reserve schools in B.C..

“It’s just typical bologna coming out of the Fraser Institute,” said McNeil.

“The Fraser Institute’s problem is that they pan nationalize everything. There is no doubt there are some regions in Canada where First Nations may not have curriculum standards or teacher certifications. But B.C. First Nations is beyond that.”

Since 1998, all teachers employed in on-reserve schools in B.C. must be provincially certified. As well, organizations like FNESC and the First Nations Schools Association have been working for years on standardizing curriculum and upgrading infrastructure to meet the provincial standard.

They’ve partnered with the provincial government, as well as other educational bodies like the BC School Trustees Association and BC Teachers Federation.

“None of that is referenced in the Fraser Institute report at all,” said McNeil.

McNeil said the report wasn’t surprising given the source.

“Fraser Institute basically finds the weakest region in the country and then tries to inform the public that that’s the standard across the country,” he said. “It’s obviously wrong, but they get away with it.”

In B.C., there are 130 on-reserve schools, 26 of which go to Grade 12.

At Seabird Island’s kindergarten to Grade 12 school, 20 per cent of students attending are non-aboriginal.

The provincial government currently provides reciprocal, per-student funding to on-reserve schools as long as they meet the minimum provincial standard. Last year, it provided approximately $10 million in per-student funding.

“It’s important for B.C. readers, when they look at the Fraser Institute report, to recognize that what we’re doing in on-reserve k-12 schools isn’t recognized in that report anywhere,” said McNeil.

“It’s pretty telling when the province is coughing up $10 million to our system – they’ve got tremendous trust in what it is we’re doing.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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