District supports Aboriginal learners

An agreement aims to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal students in Nanaimo

An agreement aimed at improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal students was signed by Nanaimo school district and local Aboriginal communities last week.

Nanaimo is the fourth district across the province to sign a third five-year Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. It is a commitment by school districts, First Nations groups and the Ministry of Education to work together to support Aboriginal students.

There are more than 2,000 Aboriginal learners in the district, about 15 per cent of the total student population.

Nanaimo’s first two agreements, which focused not only on academic improvements, but also on building social and cultural strengths, helped develop a strong Aboriginal education department, including ensuring there is at least one Aboriginal education assistant in every elementary school and an Aboriginal education teacher, tutor and at least one education assistant in each secondary school.

Last year, six-year completion rates in the district rose to 52 per cent from 44 per cent the year before.

Chris Southwick, assistant superintendent, said while the district has a long way to go toward eliminating the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, it is encouraging that completion rates have risen.

She said the third agreement also emphasizes increased knowledge and respect for Aboriginal culture, language and history among all learners and adults.

“We have to ensure everyone is really engaged in ensuring we are making a difference,” said Southwick.