Manitoba

Métis kids less likely to be ready to start school, study says: MMF calls for more education support

The Manitoba Metis Federation says the province needs to step up supports for Métis children, pointing to a new study that found they are falling behind their peers in school preparedness.

35% of Métis children not ready for school compared to Canadian average of 27%, MMF and U of W study says

A study by the Manitoba Metis Federation and the University of Winnipeg's Institute of Urban Studies evaluated performance using a tool that gauges children's readiness to start school. It found Métis children are less likely to be ready than non-Métis children in Manitoba. (Brenna Owen/CBC)

The Manitoba Metis Federation says the province needs to step up supports for Métis children, pointing to a new study that found they are falling behind their peers in school preparedness.

The study by the federation and the University of Winnipeg's Institute of Urban Studies, released Tuesday, found children in Manitoba are less ready than kids in the rest of Canada to start school. Métis children in Manitoba are even further behind the pack, the study says.

David Chartrand, president of the federation, said the results should concern all Manitobans.

"It shows there's a failure here," he said.

The study looked at educational records from close to 60,000 children and evaluated their performance on a 103-item checklist called the Early Development Instrument, or EDI.

The tool measures kindergarten students' readiness for school based on developmental milestones in five domains: communication skills and general knowledge, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, health and well-being, and social competence.

It found that 35 per cent of Manitoba Métis children weren't ready for school, compared to the provincial average of 29 per cent.

Both numbers are above the Canada-wide average of 27 per cent.

'Not just a Métis issue': Chartrand

The study also found children from lower-income neighbourhoods are less likely to be ready than their peers, and boys are less likely to be ready than girls.

There were also discrepancies based on geography: areas in northern Manitoba around The Pas and Thompson had higher percentages of children not ready for school, whereas children in southern regions fared better.

Chartrand said he's been raising this issue for years, and voiced concerns to the former NDP government as well as the current Progressive Conservative government.

He wants to see the province provide better funding support for Métis children, including providing funding for Aboriginal Head Start educational programs targeting Métis kids. The federal government has already contributed money the Métis federation will use for the programs, he added.

"This is not just a Métis issue," he said. "This is a serious issue for all of us in Manitoba."

Asked about the study's results, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a written statement the province has already started its own review of Manitoba schooling.

"We know educational outcomes need to improve and that is why we have launched a comprehensive, independent review of Manitoba's education system, the first of its kind in decades," he said in the emailed statement.

"All Manitobans are encouraged to participate in the ongoing consultation process to help shape the future of our education system."

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