Ministers of Education Host Pan-Canadian Aboriginal Educators’ Symposium
Yellowknife, July 2, 2015 – Provincial and territorial ministers of education were in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, this week for the first-ever pan-Canadian Aboriginal Educators’ Symposium as well as the annual meeting of their intergovernmental organization, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).
CMEC Aboriginal Educators’ Symposium
The CMEC Aboriginal Educators’ Symposium was an unprecedented CMEC-led initiative to identify how best to encourage more Aboriginal people to pursue a teaching career and ensure that seasoned Aboriginal educators remain in the profession and flourish. It brought together delegations of Aboriginal educators and Elders from across Canada for two days of brainstorming through keynote presentations, panels of Indigenous scholars, breakout sessions, talking circles, and Elders’ sharing.
Education ministers joined the proceedings on Tuesday afternoon to engage with participants on teacher recruitment, training, and retention in the context of Aboriginal education in Canada.
“Research has shown that hiring Aboriginal teachers enriches learning and produces positive results for Aboriginal students,” said the Honourable Jackson Lafferty, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment for Northwest Territories and co-chair of CMEC’s working group on Aboriginal education. “With the symposium, we’ve looked to the experts — Aboriginal educators themselves — to determine how to make teaching an attractive career choice for Aboriginal youth and facilitate the professional development of educators already in the field.”
A report on the ideas developed and shared during the symposium will be made public in the coming months.
Aboriginal education at CMEC
Aboriginal education was also high on the agenda of the 104th meeting of CMEC. Ministers met with commissioners Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) to discuss findings and recommendations from the recently released report on the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, in particular those related to education. It was acknowledged that Recommendation 63 of the TRCC’s report calls on CMEC to maintain a commitment to Aboriginal education issues.
Ministers noted that much of what the TRCC recommends is already underway or planned across jurisdictions, working in collaboration with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, according to their unique needs. The CMEC Aboriginal Education Plan closely aligns with Recommendation 63 by supporting the professional development of Aboriginal students interested in pursuing teaching as a career; developing teaching resources that highlight the legacy of Indian Residential Schools for use in Bachelor of Education and teacher-education programs across Canada; promoting understanding about the history and legacy of Indian Residential Schools in all K–12 education systems across the country; and sharing promising practices in Aboriginal education.
Ministers welcomed the TRCC recommendation and committed to maintain momentum and further advance Aboriginal education across Canada. They also reiterated their commitment to ensure that curricula in provincial and territorial school systems enable students to gain an understanding of how residential schools affected Aboriginal children, families, and communities and, ultimately, the country as a whole.
“All educators — regardless of where they live or what they teach — need to have a clear understanding of the history and legacy of this dark chapter of Canadian history,” said Minister Lafferty. “Achieving this goal is an important step toward preventing future generations from carrying the heavy burden of the past.”
Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to eliminating the gap in education achievement between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. Building strong linkages between CMEC and the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group is part of addressing that commitment.
Ministers also encouraged the federal government to work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities and organizations to address the financial and governance issues faced by on‑reserve schools, for which it has fiduciary responsibility.
Postsecondary education (PSE) was another major focus of discussion at the council’s meeting in Yellowknife. Following presentations from Ontario, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia, ministers shared information on provincial and territorial PSE transformation initiatives and on ways to support the changing landscape of PSE for the benefit of students. Key topics discussed included learning outcomes, pathways, and transitions; sustainability and accountability; access and affordability; and higher education and labour markets.
Ministers have agreed to work together by sharing information and exploring issues of collective interest.
Aligning education and labour markets
In follow-up to “Skills for the Future,” the highly successful joint symposium hosted by provincial and territorial education and labour-market ministers last summer in Charlottetown, ministers reviewed a version of a pan-Canadian tool kit of promising practices to better align education systems and skills training with the evolving needs of labour markets. The practices identified fall under four broad themes: upgrading the skills of Canadians; K–12 programming targeting labour-market needs; PSE programming targeting labour-market needs; and supporting the entry of target populations into the labour market.
Ministers will share the tool kit with the Canadian public in the coming months.
Canadian education on the world stage
In keeping with CMEC’s commitment to promote international dialogue and cooperation in education, Canada hosted the 2015 International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP 2015) in Banff, Alberta, last March. The flagship event drew over 400 educators from 17 countries.
“Enhancing the teaching profession is a collective responsibility that provides collective rewards. ISTP is the leading forum for doing that internationally, and Canada was very proud to have been able to work with so many partners to make ISTP 2015 a great success,” said the Honourable Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education for British Columbia and Acting Chair for the 104th CMEC meeting.
Ministers reviewed the Banff proceedings, discussed Canada’s participation in the next ISTP, to be held in Berlin in 2016, and defined themes for the summit that could be proposed to organizers.
Ministers continued their conversation on the skills and knowledge that Canadians need to succeed in the increasingly knowledge-based economy of the early 21st century. These “global competencies” include critical thinking, resilience, adaptability, and emotional intelligence and build on foundational competencies like literacy, numeracy, and scientific understanding.
Ministers discussed the progress being made in each province and territory with respect to integrating global competencies in the classroom. They also considered what provinces and territories could contribute and gain through participation in international projects focused on global competencies. For example, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is planning to introduce a global competencies component in 2018.
CMEC Agreed Memorandum
Finally, at the meeting, ministers renewed their commitment to strengthening intergovernmental collaboration on education issues by approving in principle a new draft of the CMEC Agreed Memorandum. The agreement was first adopted by ministers with the creation of the CMEC in 1967, and was last renewed in 2005. Of particular note, the renewed CMEC Agreed Memorandum:
includes the provision that Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut will now be able to serve as Chair of CMEC, while recognizing the distinction between the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces in education and the delegated jurisdiction of the territories;
clarifies and streamlines roles, responsibilities, and governance procedures to ensure CMEC’s operational effectiveness for the coming years;
reaffirms and strengthens the role of CMEC as a forum for provincial and territorial leadership and cooperation on pan-Canadian and international education issues.
It is expected ministers will formally adopt the Agreed Memorandum in early fall.
Founded in 1967, CMEC is the collective voice of Canada’s ministers of education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education. For more information, visit us at www.cmec.ca.
– 30 –
Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259
E-mail: [email protected]
CMEC Aboriginal Educators’ Symposium
Manager, Public Affairs and Communications
Department of Education, Culture, and Employment
E-mail: [email protected]