In British Columbia there exists an inequity in the educational experiences of the students with Indigenous ancestry and non-Indigenous students. This is evident in the disparity between the graduation rates of the two groups. The BC provincial six-year completion rates for 2018/19 were 87% for non-Indigenous students and 69% for students with Indigenous ancestry (As reported in the BC Ministry of Education’s Aboriginal Report – How Are We Doing? HAWD). This gap has been a long-standing problem, although it has been narrowing over the past few years.
School districts across the province are trying to find out what is going on to allow for this discrepancy in graduation rates. There is a widely held belief that the lower rates are due to a systemic problem of a “racism of low expectations”. Many students with Indigenous ancestry are not meeting grade level expectations in Reading and Writing in Elementary school and therefore are not entering Secondary school prepared to proficiently engage with the curriculum.
How can school districts shift this trajectory away from failure? Many discussions are being shared across the province by districts engaged in Equity in Action projects. School districts are implementing new programs from Kindergarten through to Grade 12. These may include early literacy intervention programs, tracking and monitoring of students through to Grade 12; ensuring that they have the courses and marks required for graduation, as well as mentoring opportunities.
If we continue to provide extra layers of wrap around support to those students with Indigenous ancestry who need it, and make sure that they are given every opportunity available to succeed, then we can turn this around.
We need to embrace a philosophy of “collective responsibility” to ensure that all students know that there are at least two people in the school who believe that they can be successful. There needs to be a shared commitment to get these students not only crossing the stage at graduation, but also knowing that they have options for the future. And, if we all work together, someday there will be parity for the graduation rates of all students in British Columbia.
And that’s life as I see it…