5.2 Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement
While many school districts around the province have created joint agreements under the Provincial Government’s mandate to create local/regional Aboriginal Education Enhancement agreements, Prince Rupert is unique in that its community insisted on it being described and realized as a partnership agreement. They did so with the intention of conveying the importance of the shared responsibility between the school district, its staff and the Aboriginal communities it serves.
The first Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement was signed on October 29, 2001. The mission statement of the Aboriginal Education Partnership Agreement stated—
Our school system is dedicated to creating a community of young people and adults who value Aboriginal Language, Culture, Knowledge, and People as an integral part of the education system.
With the signing of the Agreement, the Aboriginal Education Council and the Board of Education, as well as community and school partners entered into a partnership designed to:
- Acknowledge the lack of success of Aboriginal learners
- Focus on increasing the academic success of Aboriginal learners
- Acknowledge the language, culture, and history of Aboriginal people whose traditional territories were served by the school district
- Report annually on progress towards specific student performance goals
Since this original agreement annual reports have been created to mark the progress of the district and its partners in achieving their shared goals for improving the “school success of all First Nations learners in Prince Rupert School District”(2001, p. 1). A renewed partnership agreement was signed on November 30, 2010, which will run until 2016. The renewed agreement clarifies the goals of the Partnership Agreement, and draws attention to the need to enhance the success of Aboriginal students through what it calls “Culturally responsive programs” (2012, p. 7). There are some important amendments made to the original agreement that include:
- A focus on school success “by providing engaging, relevant curriculum”
- A focus on enhancing “life opportunities of all Aboriginal learners”
- A focus on “the engagement of families in their children’s education”
- A focus on “greater community understanding of Aboriginal culture and history” (2012, p. 7)
The words italicized above shows the shift in thinking that has occurred over the years since the original Partnership Agreement was signed. In later parts of this report this change in thinking about Aboriginal education—a shift from thinking of Aboriginal education as a type of correctional program for a specific class of learners, i.e. Aboriginal students—to being a concern for all learners and the broader community, will be explored in greater detail. Suffice it to say that these carefully crafted words signal a fairly significant shift in thinking about Aboriginal students, from a deficit/corrective model to a more inclusive way of thinking about Aboriginal knowledges and culture as valued components of school learning.