Left Behind: The Education of Aboriginal and First Nations People


I’m writing today about a topic that is quite controversial and somewhat emotional for most people in Canada: the education of the Aboriginal and First Nations people living in this country.

I decided to write this article upon reading about former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Chief David General’s meeting at Ryerson University this past week. They have been proposing more government spending directed towards the education of First Nations peoples as there seems to be an outcry within the First Nations community to do so.

I usually only focus upon post-secondary education, as those needs are what primarily intrigues me; however, this topic has caught my attention. I have found that since the statistics regarding those who have graduated secondary school in Ontario are quite high, and, therefore, so is the post-secondary (college and/or university) graduation rate, the statistics regarding the same age groups within the Aboriginal community are staggeringly low.

Upon doing a bit of research on the matter, here is some of what I’ve found:

1)      60 First Nations communities have no schools at all. Out of the communities that do have schools, 60 of those have schools that are in severe disrepair.

2)      1 in 4 First Nations children live in poverty.

3)      According to Canada’s 2006 Census, 32% of Aboriginal people aged 25-34 did not graduate high school, compared with the only 10% of non-Aboriginal people in the same age group.

These statistics pertain to primary and secondary education exclusively, but they do relate to post-secondary education within the Aboriginal and/or First Nations community. If we look at the poor conditions of the schools, the extreme poverty, and the exceptionally high drop-out rate for high school students, we may only come to the conclusion that most Aboriginal and/or First Nations peoples are unable to enrol in any post-secondary educational institute, either due to lack of support/motivation or lack of funds.

According to the 2006 Census, 3.8% of Canada’s population is Aboriginal, totalling to just fewer than 1.2 million people within the nation. Since there is such a large amount of people in need of post-secondary education funding within the Aboriginal community, the government has put into place many funds, including the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, among others. Yet, even with these funds in place, there is still a low number of Aboriginal students with the funds to attend a post-secondary institution. Many argue it’s because the money is not evenly distributed among the students; many are given nothing, while much is given to few.

We are fortunate enough to have an extremely supportive government in regards to post-secondary education, however, we seem to be forgetting an important part of the population on our quest for increasing knowledge, and many Canadian citizens are being left behind in the process.


One Response to “Left Behind: The Education of Aboriginal and First Nations People”

  1. 1 Dakota

    I am half Native… And it’s amazing how education has not been placed as a point of importance in the culture… The statistics you showed are amazing and sad at the same time. xo

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