Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students

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09 Aug 2017
9789264279421 (PDF) ;9789264279414(print)

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Indigenous peoples are diverse, within and across nations. However, the Indigenous peoples have experienced colonisation processes that have undermined Indigenous young people’s access to their identity, language and culture. At the same time, Indigenous children have not generally had access to the same quality of education that other children in their country have had access to. These two forces in combination have undermined the educational opportunities and outcomes of successive generations of Indigenous children and young people, at times with catastrophic effect.

The six Canadian provinces and territories that participated in this study, along with New Zealand and Queensland (Australia), are actively seeking to better meet the educational needs and aspirations of Indigenous students and their families.

The report seeks to identify promising strategies, policies, programmes and practices that support improved learning outcomes for Indigenous students and to build an empirical evidence base on Indigenous students in education. The study investigates four areas in Indigenous education: well-being, participation, engagement and achievement in education. These outcomes are inter-connected and mutually reinforcing, and each is essential for the success of every student.

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  • Foreword and acknowledgements

    Following the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, hosted by Alberta (Canada) in 2015, Alberta Education initiated this collaborative project to improve learning outcomes for Indigenous students, inviting the OECD to shape and implement the study in conjunction with other interested Canadian provinces and territories.

  • Executive summary

    Four Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and two territories (Northwest Territories and Yukon) participated in this study, along with New Zealand and Queensland (Australia).1 They all are actively seeking to better meet the educational needs and aspirations of Indigenous students and their families, reflecting the priority each of these jurisdictions places on improving outcomes for Indigenous peoples. This also recognises the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, which all three countries have endorsed.

  • Overview: Improving the educational experiences of Indigenous students

    This chapter presents an overview of the factors and priorities identified in this study as critical to improving the educational experiences of Indigenous students. A number of factors support and enable significant, sustained improvement at system, community and school levels. These include respecting the rights and values of Indigenous students, setting targets with firm time frames, working closely with individual students and their families and communities, and collecting data to monitor progress over time. At the system level, three initiatives in particular should be included in any strategy to improve the education experiences of Indigenous students: providing high-quality early learning opportunities; supporting teachers and leaders to develop awareness, capability and confidence; and monitoring progress across key indicators at both system and school levels. At the individual school level, the combination of priorities used will differ depending on circumstances, but at a minimum, schools should focus on: quality and effectiveness of teaching; engagement with families; and direct support for students. The issues faced by Indigenous students go far beyond education, but it is education that provides hope and promise to address disparities, not only in educational opportunities but also a much wider set of inequities.

  • Approach, objectives and methodology of the study on Indigenous students and education

    This study aims to understand the experiences of Indigenous students and to identify successful strategies, policies and practices to support their success. Four Canadian provinces and two territories participated in the study, and New Zealand and Queensland (Australia) provided data and other information to enrich the study. The report looks beyond student attainment and achievement to include well-being, participation and engagement. Well-being is a very prominent consideration from an Indigenous perspective, and it is of key importance to any approach to student success. Indigenous perspectives need to be genuinely recognised and not be considered as simply an add-on to the main goals of education. In fact, those perspectives fit closely with aims informing educational development around the world, including the major global objectives for education, of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While we have sought policies and practices underpinned by evidence of success, the lack of evaluation is problematic regarding education for Indigenous populations.

  • Indigenous peoples and education in participating Canadian provinces and territories

    Colonisation processes have had a profoundly negative impact on successive generations of Indigenous peoples in Canada. UNICEF recently looked at four measures of child well-being: income inequality, educational inequality, health inequality and life satisfaction. Out of 35 countries, Canada ranks in 26th place, meaning that young Canadians grow up in contexts characterised by relatively wide inequalities, especially of income, health and life satisfaction, although less so for education. Indigenous populations account for a growing share of the population and of school students in Canada, and they tend to be younger than the non-Indigenous population. Canadian data show that poverty rates among the children of Indigenous families are higher than among non-Indigenous families. However, there are important differences in Indigenous populations, including size, languages, and approaches to identification/self-identification. This chapter presents basic demographic and economic data for each of the Canadian provinces and territories participating in this study, as well as facts relating to education and Indigenous populations. The participating provinces and territories are: Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories and Yukon.

  • Improving the well-being of Indigenous young people

    Well-being is central to approaches to Indigenous education and Indigenous values. Five dimensions usefully define well-being in young people: cognitive, psychological, physical, social and material. This chapter focuses especially on the social, psychological and physical dimensions. A number of indicators give rise to concern about the wellbeing of Indigenous young people, although data are inadequate to build a full picture. But there are also promising signs that trends are improving and that the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students are relatively small. There is concern about low levels of trust and confidence in the education system among Indigenous parents. Recognition of culture, language and identity is an integral part of well-being, but it is difficult to recruit adequate staff and trained Indigenous teachers. However, the promotion of Indigenous culture and identity has implications for the professional development and practice of all educators. Building trust is even more essential because of the historical context of residential schools and colonialism, as well as the privileged place of relationships in Indigenous cultures. Land-based programmes represent examples of project-based learning, community engagement, and a sustainability focus that are lessons for good practice everywhere, not only for Indigenous students.

  • Increasing the participation of Indigenous students in education

    Participation in education reflects students’ access to education and their opportunities to learn. Although the overall level of participation is high across the jurisdictions in the study, Indigenous students have lower levels of participation than non-Indigenous students. Limited access to opportunities can have a significant impact on a student's later outcomes. This chapter outlines the importance of participation in education for positive student development, from the early years to the senior years. It also covers progress in monitoring participation across the jurisdictions and identifies patterns of participation according to many factors, including gender, socio-economic status and geographic location. The study has identified a number of promising policies and practices to support Indigenous students' participation in education.

  • Improving the engagement of Indigenous students in education

    While improving students' well-being and ensuring participation of all students are the first steps to improve student outcomes, student engagement plays a crucial role. Engagement in education is a necessary precondition for student learning so that students can develop their skills and enjoy education. Better understanding how to improve student engagement can help support students to remain in education and do well at it. This chapter investigates the role of student engagement in education and the indicators that reflect it. The analysis explores evidence on student engagement and identifies promising policies and practices to improve it. Recognition and integration of Indigenous values and approaches are critical for achieving improvements in this area.

  • Supporting educational achievement among Indigenous students

    Achievement is a multidimensional concept, which can relate to many aspects of life and vary according to an individual's aspirations. Educational systems can support achievement by providing students with the opportunities to develop the skills to realise their ambitions and participate fully in society. This is crucial for their well-being and for society as a whole. This chapter examines the importance of achievement for students, progress among jurisdictions in monitoring achievement and patterns in achievement. Six key levers have been identified to improve student achievement: high-quality early learning and teaching, leadership, extra support for students, engagement of families, and regular monitoring.

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