Monday, August 27, 2012

A Response from the Ministry of Education to my Open Letter

On August 16, 2012, i received the following from Trish Rosborough, Director, Aboriginal Education, Ministry of Education, in response to my "Open Letter..." post addressing Minister Abbott.  I can't link to that post here, I'm posting this from a remote site via email.

"Thank you for your email of July 24, 2012, to the Honourable George Abbott, Minister of Education. I am pleased to respond on the Minister’s behalf.
Aboriginal education is important not only for Aboriginal students but also for all students. With recent efforts, the Ministry has put that belief into action.

First, the Ministry has long worked collaboratively with First Nations, often through the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). Recently, a Tripartite Education Framework Agreement formalized the Province’s practice of consulting with FNESC on matters ranging from provincial education policy to BC’s funding formula, all of which shape the education system for Aboriginal students and non-Aboriginal students alike.

Second, the Ministry has spent a decade working with school districts and Aboriginal communities to develop and implement Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements. These agreements are collaboratively developed and most share the goal of increasing awareness of Aboriginal culture, history, and language among all students. Recent annual reports for these agreements spotlight the many experiences provided for students and the many positive results:

A third long-time strategy is bringing Aboriginal content into the classroom. One ongoing method is offering all students courses focused on Aboriginal content, such as BC First Nations Studies 12, English First Peoples 10, 11, and 12, and courses resulting from the 15 Ministry-approved First Nations language Integrated Resource Packages. Another ongoing method is infusing all Ministry-developed K–12 curriculum documents, assessments, and resource materials with Aboriginal culture, history, language, perspectives, and pedagogy. Recently, as part of the BC Education Plan, the Ministry and its partners have also been redefining curriculum and assessment with Aboriginal worldviews and knowledge in mind.

We need to continue to work together to provide an integral Aboriginal education to all students and the BC Education Plan can help. For example, the plan’s commitment to personalized learning is informed by and reflects some of the First Peoples Principles of Learning. Likewise, the plan’s focus on competencies, such as critical thinking and social responsibility, will enable and empower all students to reflect with empathy on the past, present, and potential place of Indigenous peoples in this Province. For these reasons, I believe we are moving in the right direction. I welcome your ongoing contributions and comments. Again, thanks for writing."

I decided just to copy and paste in. I'd love your thoughts on this response. Does it address my concerns? I am surprised by the last paragraph, I haven't seen that reflection of the FPPL, but I could have missed it. I need to learn more about the tripartite agreement before I can comment on that. I will, hopefully write more on this topic when I have had a chance to consider it more. But your impressions are appreciated.



  1. Well...first things first. Some of these programs have been around for 10+ years - so there should be some performance data about how well initiatives are working. If not - red flag.

    Second, how many of the initiative truly represent collaborative initiatives. There are First Nations people you could track down to get their side of it. Sometimes stakeholder engagement and collaboration is anything but.

    Third, I'd want to know how many of these initiative have dedicated funding as opposed to 'fun money'. Guaranteed funds signal ongoing, more genuine engagement.

    Just a few thoughts...

  2. There is something that kind of bugs me about:

    "will enable and empower all students to reflect with empathy on the past, present, and potential place of Indigenous peoples in this Province."

    It assumes or questions the "place" of Indigenous peoples. I don't know, maybe it just triggered me. Or maybe it's a reflection of the writers mental models?

    I think there is often a disconnect between program and curriculum designers and the rest of the world. That disconnect occurs while decisions are made prior to and during program design and after its rolled out.

    I also think we need to be aware of the possible misinterpretation of both "personalized learning" and "competency based" education.

    We need to come to whole system wide understanding of the purpose of education and the role of the public education systems. That one HUGE building block needs to be in place. To do that we have to invite the entire system into the room, not just a few, quasi-representative parts.

    Just my two cents.