Still room to improve aboriginal graduation rates, says district

NANAIMO – Education Minister praises local school district for increasing graduation rate for aboriginal learners.

  • Feb. 26, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Despite a letter of commendation from Minister of Education Peter Fassbender and an above-average aboriginal education graduation rate, the Nanaimo school district says it won’t rest on its laurels.

The aboriginal grad rate was at 43.1 per cent in 2009, but the district saw a six-year completion rate of 64 per cent in 2013-14 – higher than the provincial average of 62 per cent.

While Laura Tait, director of instruction for the school district’s aboriginal education team, said she is “over the moon” after hearing the announcement, there is a lot of room to improve. One-hundred per cent isn’t out of reach, she said.

Strides have been made bringing aboriginal issues to the forefront and while the past saw related inquiries being directed toward the aboriginal education department, which worked for a couple of decades, now people are more knowledgable and strategic, Tait said.

“I think what’s going to bump us the next bit to get these kids up to the 70-80 range is that everybody become aware of what the issues are, the ups, the downs, the goods, bads and that we all own it. It’s not the property of the aboriginal education department or your ab ed staff at a school or me,” Tait said.

“Everybody is looking at it from a stance of, what part do I play in this?”

“A large piece of that I think, is actually having the knowledge and understanding of the history of this country, especially as it pertains to aboriginal peoples. We’ve been working really hard on that,” said Tait.

She said bridging the gap to the past is extremely important. Hul’q’umi’num, the traditional language of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, has also been incorporated into the school curriculum.

“We have two strong language teachers here and they’re running around like chickens with no heads teaching K-12.

“As well, they’re attempting to mentor anyone else that’s interested, especially aboriginal [education assistants] that are already on the job,” said Tait.

Hul’q’umi’num words are also being used during morning announcements.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, said the district would still like to increase the graduation rate.

“It’s not where we want to be, but we’re trending in the right direction,” said Rae. “I’m very proud of Laura Tait and her team. She is a rock star and everybody in our whole district, for that matter.”