Communities of Canada
Challenges in the Creation of healthy & sustainable education systems for the First-Nation Communities of Canada
Education of the First-Nations of Canada has been one of the challenging issues historically. Various agreements and treaties have been signed among the stakeholders, including the federal and local administration for formulating an education policy that ensures the constitutional rights of the First-Nation communities. A conceptual mechanism needs to be structured to let the First-Nations self-manage their education-related matters to meet the challenges that help in reducing the tensions, differences, and confrontations, occurring between the overlapping First Nations and non-First Nations communities, vying for resources.
There has been a history of the control of education of the First Nations in Canada. The concept of Indian management of the education emerged with the publication of a white paper in 1969, wherein the then Prime-Minister Trudeau offered a federal outlook of improving relations between the First Nations communities and the government of Canada. The Indian Act was annulled, cancelling all the special legal rights of the First Nations communities, to initiate the process of normalising relations, with the aim of reducing tensions between the government and the First Nations. The publication of this white paper had negative repercussions among the First Nations, leading them to form the National Indian Brotherhood in 1972, resulting in the publication of Indian Control of Indian Education (ICIE). It made a call to the people to self-manage the education by the First Nations communities, for overall total jurisdiction and freedom over education. It demanded the First Nations voice on local state and territorial school boards, meant to attend to First Nations schools (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
A number of agreements and policy initiatives have taken place since the publication of ICIE in 1972 for the local control of education. Most of the education-related agreements encouraged a hegemonic framework of power, supporting asymmetrical relations between the both cultures, supporting unbalanced bureaucratic set up among the First Nations and the non-first nations. This arrangement led to the suppression of aboriginal insights and thought systems to that of prevailing value systems, resulting in devaluing of the First Nations value system. All these federal local policy arrangements could not succeed to serve the aboriginal people’s exclusive customs, their socio-economic and academic backwardness as well as political inequalities, impacting negatively the First Nations communities. These policy initiatives gave air to some sort of internal colonialism among the First Nations to capture the wheel of power, not giving importance to the problems related to inequalities and subjugation of the First Nations by the non-First Nations people. Therefore, an institutional mechanism needs to be formed, offering a ground for First Nations, managing their education on the basis of ideals, framed by their own people, paving the way for a different and unique indigenous academic process cherishing their self-proclaimed value-sets, emerging from the First Nations own culture and language (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The perspective of the Canadian government on the importance of education reforms has been very clear. It is evident from the 2002 report of the Minister’s National Working Group on Education, which included the remarks, as given: “the jurisdiction that the First Nations require to govern and manage the education of their learners should be inclusive and all-encompassing” (Hurley, 2009, p. 5)
Whatever has been accomplished earlier in the field of education through the federal-local arrangements may indicate change, but there is hardly any scope left, as the part played by such agreements gets reduced to just some additional management tools, promoting some sort of hegemony, establishing the superiority of non-First Nation administration over First Nation people, delegating them power in ascending pattern; such has been the institutionalizing nature of these agreements (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
As far as the education clauses in the agreements are concerned, it is pointed out that the federal government of Canada still backs the SGAs 1950 policy of unification under various agreements. Under one such agreement, certain clauses are added, according to which, the education offered to the First Nations because of SGA must be competitive to the state level education. It should help students to make a transition from the First Nations academic curriculum to the syllabus taught at state-run schools without imposing any fine on the students (McCue, 2006).
Presently, power is delegated to the First Nation people in the municipal framework of self-government. They have only limited freedom in the educational affairs of administration; the First Nations can set directions, mechanisms, and frame policies, but the final say remains with the federal and state governments. Although policy hints at support to empower the First-Nation communities to design their educational systems, the notion of the type of transformation being desired -- essential to authorize “aboriginalization” has got lost by the planners and supporters of First-Nation and non-First-Nation policy designers. Whatever is being done to improvise the education policy for the First Nations is just a singing of the old tune; nothing new and constructive has been accomplished through policy reformulation that could prove to be clearly visible change in the education policy (Fallon & Paquette, 2012, p. 16).
The said SGA model does not represent the true voice of the aboriginals of Canada. The First Nation people have been given functional rights only of low-level of control. These rights are not supported through legislation or bureaucratic powers, generally linked with self-management of important issues. It is taken for granted by the government that any decision that has to be taken for the education of the First Nation communities or their right to take decisions can emerge only through the Canadian parliament. No importance is given to the aboriginals’ right to take such decisions, as they are the major stakeholders who are affected by such government assumptions; therefore, their role play in such decision-making should be leading, not that of the parliament (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The outcome of all this has not been favourable to provide any actual alternative in the context of showing regard and adherence to the First Nation traditions, customs, outlook, culture, and faith through policy agendas followed till now for their management aspect of education. No further robust policy change has occurred to refresh basic political connections between First-Nation and ruling elite on the question of education. Rather, the present degenerating policies with regard to education of the First-Nations are getting continued for taking improvisation follow-ups for sprucing up what has been done earlier, and what more can be attained by initiating changes at any level – be it organisational traits – by changing aggressively the behaviours and designs of interaction between both the communities, concerning their roles in relation to education in the related political mechanism. The truth is that so far the current policies have not brought about any major transformation in the ways the First-Nation academic bodies used to, and are, linked together, including aims, particularly education and social aims, and mechanisms and tasks done to facilitate provision of learning. Primarily, policy planners have taken it for granted that self-controlled academic bodies of the First-Nation communities at local level should work by following a routine template, encouraging high level of answerability – formally provided under the laws; policies related particularly to syllabus development, are framed by a non-First-Nation rank, at state or territorial education department levels, a way highly criticisable for creating problems of legality (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The policy push in the direction of higher First-Nations self-control over education in the late 90s and at the start of 2000s, on the contrary, continued and questioningly increased the prevailing trend toward division among First-Nation people. The concept of local control has changed to such degree that denies First-Nation people the strength to form relevant, fit, and durable education systems. These policy-led catalysts of division have incessantly added to the plurality and distribution of bureaucratic power and increased the possibility of a crisis in First-Nations academics, involving both the communities. Local First-Nation peoples’ robustness to live with the dynamics of transformation and self-rule has reduced, as the complications of division and less than optimum size of the most of First-Nation people have become more common and noticeable, considering the wider context of academics in Canada and due to the internationalization of knowledge economy (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
Tenacity in recognising Indian control with primarily local control has not helped in the robustness of First-Nations to know the timing of shared action in the matter of self-rule in education. Strength building initiatives have been transformed into micro project-sponsoring schemes by INAC. The aim has never been at capacitating First-Nation communities to get expertise in mapping and attending to their own academic needs from their own viewpoints and definitely not focused at outlining and attaining the resources and expertise that would support increased degrees of self-rule and responsibility on an increasing and long term basis (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The government planning has been to empower the First-Nations academic control via devolutionary policies, although it needs to be questioned how a control can be devolved across First-Nations schools when it was never there before. It has massively reduced the scope of First-Nations management of education to types of local bureaucratic freedom and wisdom, determined primarily on the basis of sub standard expertise and results-based outputs authenticated via student progress mapped in terms of student capability to shift into a quality education system without paying any fine, at the desired time. The aim of these policies was to provide functional control to the First-Nation people of their own education system; state governments keep decisive hold over all important issues to themselves regarding syllabus, assessment and qualification parameters; funding by the federal government is the only exception where provincial government does not play a role in the matter of First-Nations education. There has been a lack of fruitful discussion about the need for First-Nation communities to resolve division issues and absence of critical mass issues via creation of aggregated entities of genuine self-management, robust enough to evolve, impact, impress, and govern change within themselves or between other non-community players. The present helm of affairs due to lack on the part of First Nations for the cause of education, has limited their scope of action. There has been seen lethargy of direction to encourage robust shared actions on playing the power game in the area of education inherent with and carrying a social aim (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is also of the opinion that the federal government needs to come forward to create tools, laws, and policy making processes with the First-Nations governments at various relevant platforms to back up the enforcement of First Nations right to take decisions over education. Policy planning needs to be turned into reality (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The perspective of the AFN over the present education affairs speaks nothing but truth. Principles are not more important than the people. The First-Nations communities must have at their command the tools of self-determination in education. There should be a common agreement on this basic consequential issue, which is missing in the First Nations. Reaching an agreement over aggregated self-ruling entities seems to ask for the minimum, as it is pending for a long time. It is an awareness that must be understood in the right perspective to maintain the momentum of fight for another decade of political-economy-supported fight (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
So far, the policy statements and all available SGAs including content on education have only limited impact on the First-Nation communities to express views in the periphery of Canadian society, with their unique identities and notions of aboriginals’ thriving to manage their educational matters according to their specific customs and values, and safeguard their unity and living in the long term by managing education. This subordination of education to comply with non-First-Nation aims and parameters has become a cause of tussle at political level between both the governments and stakeholder communities in the context of education. It strengthens the belief that the subjugation of First-Nations knowledge and traditionally preserved culture is happening by limiting the probability of First-Nations’ ways of thinking; it has been the leading indicator in First Nations educational policy evolvement (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The presently working SGAs are lacking in their strides to relate with such norms and values to which all stakeholders show acceptance. Predefined and agreed norms can help in controlling common stakes of both the leading stakeholders’ interests. They need to be taken as normal strides to build the relationships between federal and state governments and between the First-Nations people and schools as well at the same time. The ground of present self-government contracts on First Nations education management and its jurisdiction has a limited scope, as it talks about changing hands of managerial control of only low ranked powers over the availability of state-sponsored syllabus. This vision is very limited of the First-Nations self-rule, not including the vast range of their socio-cultural, academic, and economic aspects, controlled from behind by and via non-First-Nations education organizations. The First-Nations education agreements based on ‘devolved’ power, it can be reasoned, work on the principle that First-Nation management of education must be limited strictly within the federal and state-run policy, as formulated by the provincial governments. Organizational precepts enshrined in the educational agreements that control the use of authority by First-Nation and non-First-Nation stakes, tilt the balance for the long time period, supporting non-First-Nation stakes. Then, it becomes difficult to set worthwhile policy limits around First-Nations control of education. The most controversial dead-end of the road to improvisation in First-Nations education is that it has not made a shift for the last forty years. Policy-wise also, it is important to be in touch with reality, as it is quite varied in the First-Nations schools; it is expected that First-Nations education follows state education minutely so that students can make a shift to states-run schools without paying any fine in lieu of that transfer (Fallon & Paquette, 2012).
The whole picture is not that dismal; irrespective of the huge complications surrounding the First-Nations education, many traits highlight the possibility for functional aggregation in the management of First-Nations education. One hurdle is the presence and variation in the number of stakeholders, showing clash of interests on the federal and state level that a single structural change to enforce self-management cannot be worked out in immediate time but such a possibility cannot be outright rejected in the distant time. There is need to hold further debate on the devising of aggregate models of self-management of education by the First-Nations over selected management entities. All First Nations are to a certain degree local + global, i.e. glocal. Finally, the local and global parts need to assimilate in new and workable ways and, in that process, restate who are the First-Nations within the boundaries of aggregated self-managing entities and what such aggregate self-deciding entities will resemble like. Respect for varied cultural shades, treating all entities of the First-Nations equally, and letting them flourish by providing them sufficient freedom to form their individual opinion of the world matters, can help the leading stakeholders if due attention is also given to the economies of scale. Such a governance mechanism can bring together the culturally diverse aboriginal populations on a shared platform. Need is to inquire into the number variations of First-Nations self-control systems, specifically in the field of education, to get rid of the divisionary forces within the First-Nation people. The leading question is to fix a time frame to replace First Nations education non-systems into performing and suitable systems of self-governance that corrects the sub-alternation of First Nations people, mostly ignored in related debate over cultural variations.
Fallon, G., & Paquette, J. (2012). A critical analysis of self-governance agreements addressing First-Nations control of education in Canada. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, (132). Retrieved from, https://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/pdf_files/fallon_paquette2.pdf
Hurley, M.C. (2009). The Indian Act. Social Affairs Division, Library of Parliament. (Publication No. PRB 09-12E). Retrieved from http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0912-e.pdf
McCue, H. (2006). Aboriginal post-secondary education: A think piece from the Centre for Native Policy and Research. West Vancouver: Centre for Native Policy and Research. Retrieved from http://books1.scholarsportal.info/viewdoc.html?id=29103