New Indigenous education strategy aims to 'bridge the gap'
Province hopes plan improves opportunities of Indigenous students, incorporate more history and culture
School boards across the province, including those in the northeast, are working to incorporate more Indigenous learning into their curriculum as part of the Ministry of Education's Indigenous Education Strategy.
According to the ministry, the strategy has been designed to improve opportunities for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, and to teach students about Indigenous histories, cultures and perspectives.
Elizabeth Innes, the Indigenous system lead for the District School Board Ontario North East, said boards are establishing Indigenous advisory councils made up of parents, students, elders, teachers and community members, to advise boards on what aspects of First Nation, Metis and Inuit culture should be taught to students.
"Our traditional teachers that have gone through teachers' college and are teaching the Ontario curriculum don't have those skills. So we're really just trying to bridge, how do we bridge that gap?" Innes said.
"How do we connect our parents and our guardians who are valuable teachers in areas of things like culture and living off the land to what needs to be covered in the Ontario curriculum?" Innes said.
So far, 60 of 72 school boards have developed their own councils to incorporate the changes.
Geography in the north poses challenges
Innes also said her region's vast geography poses some challenges for educators.
Innes' board covers 25,000 square kilometres from Hearst to Temagami, and she said Indigenous students make up 14 per cent of her board's population.
"We're really looking at a geographical area that not only covers a lot of square kilometres but covers various Indigenous groups," Innes said, "we have Ojibway, Cree, Oji-Cree, we have Algonquin. We have a range of different languages, cultures, customs on that entire area."
Innes said she hopes to have a council in place by February to start making plans for the next school year.
With files from Angela Gemmill.