8.4 A sustained impact on Aboriginal education policy and programs
As we discussed briefly earlier in this report, there have been efforts to effect change in Aboriginal education at the provincial level; a short history of these efforts was provided in the literature review. What we noted was that systemic approaches—initiated by government or the Ministry—were framed through policies that sought to shape districts’ approaches to the goal of improving the success of Aboriginal students. This included collaboratively developed local Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements. We know that these were necessary initial efforts that would bring political attention for these matters to all school districts, but we also argued, by drawing from Williams’ (2000) research, how the development of local Aboriginal education measures was a more successful approach as it built on the diversity and strengths of local communities.
The AESN has been a sustained and effective mechanism through which to bridge the chasm between provincial policy intentions and the needs of local Aboriginal learners (and their communities). This is because policy documents do not mandate or include specific measures used in classrooms or schools; that isn’t their purpose. They offer a framework for value statements. But without the specific intentionality of action, policies are often more cerebral: they represent “good intentions” but they are more difficult to enact. The AESN structure enables and promotes a move to action. The Network relies on the “good intentions” expressed in the EA’s as a starting point, but bring it to life by requiring teachers to consider how to directly implement or bring those intentions to life in classrooms. This movement from policy to practice is a sustained activity of the Network and it has had considerable impact on the work done with teachers, leaders and community members as is evidenced by the data collected for this study. The Network has been a powerful catalyst through which local change has been realized. The Network has forever altered the landscape of Aboriginal education in BC , bringing it to a level of profile not experienced in its educational history to date.