More Indigenous culture needed in schools, says teachers' union

By Nigel Maxwell
January 30, 2019 - 5:00pm

The union representing Saskatchewan’s teachers says the Ministry of Education needs improvement when it comes to the allocation of people and resources with the province's public schools for Indigenous language instruction.

Over the past few weeks, representatives from the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) have been meeting with Indigenous leaders across the province. STF President Patrick Maze said one of the common themes at the meetings was a concern expressed by the leaders over losing their language.

"I think everyone knows how important culture is in helping improve First Nations and Metis [graduation rates], and if culture is important then certainly language is a keystone to any culture," he said.

In 2018-2019, the provincial education budget provided $1.87 million dollars was provided in school operating funding, an increase of $30 million from the previous year. According to an emailed statement from the Ministry of Education, they provide funding to the school divisions, wh, in turn, decide the programming choices to best meet local needs. Maze said Indigenous leaders he has spoken to have indicated they would like to see stronger direction come from the government level, and that school divisions don’t necessarily have all the funds they need to provide the programming

"So we know the system had $54 million dollars taken out of it just a few years ago and so school divisions are having to make cutbacks in each division," he said. "So when we look at investing in areas like First Nations language instruction, it suddenly kind of hits the back burner.”

Prince Albert’s Conrad Burns has embarked on a mission to launch a new school in the city. The school would be open to all students but would be different in that there would be a greater emphasis on indigenous culture.

"I don't feel like present days schools are meeting the peoples' needs," he said when asked what the reason was behind his idea.

While Burns's plans are still very much in the preliminary stages, he has held several meetings with elders and has received a good response. He said Indigenous students can have a stronger rate of success if they are given the right opportunities.

"Culture is a part of self-identity and when we learn who we are, we can learn confidence," he said.

On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell



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