Indigenous

Six Nations Polytechnic partners with Western University for master's degree program

Six Nations Polytechnic hopes that partnering up with Western University to offer a new Master of Professional Education program will benefit the community by helping educators learn advanced skills without leaving home.

Master of Professional Education program begins this summer

Six Nations Polytechnic offers post-secondary education within Canada's largest First Nation community, partnering with Ontario universities for accreditation. (@snpsteam/Twitter)

Six Nations Polytechnic hopes that partnering up with Western University to offer a new Master of Professional Education program will benefit the community by helping educators learn advanced skills without leaving home.

This new program is designed to be accessible for learners who are already working in the community but want to advance their education at the same time.

"Many of our learners are very active in the community, so this helps to make the learning opportunity more successful," said Rebecca Jamieson, president of Six Nations Polytechnic.

What makes the Six Nations Polytechnic program unique is the focus on Indigenous communities and learning. Attention is put on Indigenous knowledge practices and historical context of Indigenous education in Canada.

The degree does not lead to teacher certification but is appropriate for people who want to advance in leadership roles in education settings. 

Rebecca Jamieson, Six Nations Polytechnic president, holding a two-row wampum belt. (Mark Burnham/Mark Burnham Photography)

Indigenous learning

Six Nations of the Grand River, about 30 km southwest of Hamilton, has been proactive in developing schools and opportunities to educate within the community, but it still faces challenges.

Delivering programs within Indigenous communities like Six Nations Polytechnic does is important because of the education attainment gap that still exists among Indigenous peoples, said Jamieson.

"We want to address that with our own educators and our own expertise. The more we can do to help our educators acquire the advanced skills that a Master of Professional Education can offer, the better for the community. [It] will benefit as a result," she said.

While Jamieson predicts that the first cohort of the new program will be primarily from the Six Nations community, the programs at the school are open to enrolment by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students who want to learn.

"One of our strategic purposes is to be able to educate people and build understanding across cultures," said Jamieson.

Western University in London, Ont., offers its own two-year Master of Professional Education program and had previously offered Aboriginal education as one of the possible focuses for the degree. Now the degree with this focus will be delivered at Six Nations Polytechnic.

Training Indigenous educators to lead

Jennie Anderson, a member of Six Nations, completed the program at Western with the focus on Aboriginal education in 2015.

Anderson had worked for much of her professional life in roles that had some sort of advocacy element to them. She enrolled in the Master of Professional Education program to refine her research skills.

"Everyone was working so hard for their communities, their students, their organizations – so it is completely refreshing because you know that the work we are doing in class has real world implications," said Anderson.

Six Nations Polytechnic campus is located in Six Nations and offers community members the opportunity to pursue higher education without having to relocate. (Mark Burnham/Mark Burnham Photography )

She now works at Six Nations Polytechnic as the academic development officer.

"I think that in this era of reconciliation, it is critical that we have education professionals with these competencies shaping and guiding Indigenous education policy so that the spirit and intent of these things are not co-opted in a way that does not service the best interests of children, youth, learners and communities," said Anderson.

She said bringing the program to Six Nations makes it more accessible for community members who haven't been able to relocate due to work or other obligations.

"My sister lives in London and was always happy to host me when I was in town for classes, but without a doubt, bringing the program into the community for delivery will create better opportunities for access," said Anderson.

Six Nations Polytechnic will be accepting applications for the two-year program until April 30. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

now