Province buys into New Zealand package for First Nations education

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February 21, 2016 by realrenewal

The Regina Public School board’s strategic plan for 2014-2017 states it will work to improve the achievement rates of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students by participating “fully in the research, development, and planning of the provincial FNMI Achievement Initiative based on New Zealand’s Te Kotahitanga project.” Asked about this at the 2016 annual meeting, director of education Greg Enion said the program has been adopted by all Saskatchewan school divisions and the ministry of education, and has been enthusiastically received by principals.

The enthusiasm is not so apparent in the country where the program was created. In New Zealand, Te Kotahitanga was withdrawn in 2013 after the high cost of consultants did not appear to generate promised results.

After spending $40 million in consulting fees, a ministry spokesperson called it “a very expensive program that runs at the whim of its own.”

Te Kotahitanga was also critiqued by New Zealand education experts and teachers for an underlying philosophy that argues socio-economic conditions faced by students are beyond the ‘core business’ of improving achievement scores, and are merely an excuse for poor teaching. This call to ignore the whole child appears to contradict the call of First Nations leaders and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to acknowledge the impact of out colonial history on today’s generation of children and youth.

It also appears to undo much time invested by First Nations educators working with the Canadian Council on Learning to develop alternate success indicators that recognize Indigenous ways of knowing, and to quantify the learning impacts of social indicators ranging from housing conditions to income levels.

A similar approach – to disregard socioeconomic and historical factors and focus in isolation on teaching to the test – has been implemented in Britain. In the U.S., this thinking has been called one of the greatest policy failures introduced by George W. Bush.

More about First Nations, Inuit and Metis education

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