Indigenous Education Major Focus of CMEC Meeting in Vancouver
Vancouver, July 6, 2018 – Provincial and territorial ministers of education met this week in Vancouver on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations for the 107th meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). Ministers also had the opportunity to participate in the CMEC Symposium on Indigenizing Teacher Education.
The Honourable Melanie Mark, Chair of CMEC and Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training for British Columbia, hosted the ministerial meeting and welcomed her provincial and territorial colleagues and members of their delegations to the symposium.
“We all recognize the urgent challenge of ensuring our education systems are inclusive and supportive for all students,” said Minister Mark. “Through the symposium we heard from students, Indigenous educators, and leaders how imperative it is to move forward on the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s an honour for British Columbia to host provincial and territorial ministers of education, and share our commitment to support student wellness, mental health, and Indigenizing education.”
“I’m so pleased we were able to gather as ministers of education and to hear first-hand from Indigenous students and educators,” said the Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education for British Columbia. “We know that education is a key part of reconciliation and it is critical to integrate Indigenous knowledge, traditions, and languages into classrooms across Canada.”
CMEC Symposium on Indigenizing Teacher Education
The symposium gathered participants from the education sector, along with Elders and students, to share their perspectives on how Indigenization of the classroom can occur. Together they discussed:
- exploring innovative work in teaching language, culture, and identity;
- examining Indigenous perspectives on student well-being, including mental health and wellness;
- incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing into the curriculum; and
- creating respectful partnerships.
“The symposium reinforces our commitment to ensure that our respective curricula reflect the rich history and significant contributions of Indigenous peoples and our school systems give all young people the same opportunities to succeed,” said Minister Fleming. “Provinces and territories are continuing to implement their own actions in response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”
Major focus on Indigenous education
In recognition of the importance of education in building a brighter future for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, ministers focused a major portion of their 107th meeting on Indigenous education.
Ministers participated in an Indigenous student panel discussion focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRCC) Call to Action 63, which calls upon CMEC to focus on building “ student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.”
The panel allowed ministers to engage directly with a group of Indigenous students from across the education continuum to gain a better understanding of their experiences and perspectives within the context of reconciliation. Indigenous student success, systemic barriers faced by Indigenous youth, and approaches to incorporating Indigenous cultures, history, and knowledge within schools and curricula were all deliberated by ministers.
Ministers had the opportunity to share with each other examples of recent and ongoing initiatives within their respective province or territory in response to the TRCC’s education‑related calls to action. An inventory of provincial and territorial Indigenous education actions and courses with Indigenous education content, recently completed by CMEC, served to inform their discussion.
Ministers reviewed work completed to date in the current CMEC Indigenous Education Plan (IEP) for 2016–19, of which the CMEC Symposium on Indigenizing Teacher Education is a significant component, and held an initial discussion about possible avenues for collective action in the future.
Indigenous students still don’t acquire postsecondary education at the same rate as other population groups in Canada. In the K-12 education system, the graduation rates for indigenous students are improving, but still remain lower than non-Indigenous students. Provinces and territories are working to embed Indigenous perspectives, culture and language into curricula. By doing so, Indigenous students can be better supported to develop a sense of belonging and well-being which can foster a pathway to success in school and in life.
Ministers used part of their time in Vancouver to address modernizing frameworks for Indigenous postsecondary education within the context of Indigenization and reconciliation, including Indigenizing of postsecondary education institutions, programs, and governance structures, to ensure First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students are welcome and feel at home at Canada’s postsecondary institutions; approaches to funding of Indigenous institutions; and the revitalization of Indigenous languages.
There is increasing recognition among educators and Canadians as a whole of the importance of early childhood education in the journey of lifelong learning. Ministers examined a selection of provincial and territorial programs and initiatives focused on Indigenous early learners and engaged in a roundtable discussion to share information and promising practices.
Well-being in schools and on campus
Ministers continued a discussion on student well-being which began at their 2017 meeting in Charlottetown, this time expanding their focus to well-being for all members of the community, from students and teachers to administrators and support staff.
Using a series of case studies, along with a pan-Canadian scan on well-being, ministers addressed a wide variety of topics including mental-health and wellness and school and campus safety.
Renewal of the Protocol for Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction
Ministers discussed the next steps in negotiations, especially the need for increased funding from the federal government to support expanding demand for minority-language and second-language programs and services, given that funding has not increased since 2009–10.
They also discussed other strategies to ensure that provincial and territorial priorities and jurisdiction are respected under the protocol. They expect to receive federal funding for
2018–19 without delay, and they agreed to make all necessary efforts to ensure the sustainability of their programs in the medium and long term.
Canadian education on the world stage
CMEC plays a role on the world stage, in part by representing provinces and territories at international meetings related to education, thereby contributing to strategic discussions to advance shared provincial and territorial positions.
Ministers discussed the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ministers received a presentation on Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), the aim of which is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” and discussed approaches to achieving and reporting on the goal and its various targets.
They also discussed the proposed UNESCO Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications. The convention would support the implementation of SDG 4, continuing growth in student mobility; the recognition of academic credentials as a global right; international consistency in qualifications recognition procedures; and increased international cooperation.
Ministers discussed the development of a systems-level framework on global competencies, the purpose of which is to assist education systems in monitoring progress as they transition to competencies-based education. CMEC has defined six global competencies: critical thinking and problem solving; innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship; learning to learn/self-awareness and self-direction; collaboration; communication; and global citizenship and sustainability.
Due to the recent swearing in of a new government, Ontario officials participated in this meeting as observers. Ontario is looking forward to working on issues of mutual interest with provinces and territories.
Founded in 1967, CMEC is a collective voice for Canada’s ministers of education and postsecondary education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education.
CMEC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. For more information, visit us at www.cmec.ca.
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