Aboriginal student success was highlighted at Sensisyusten House of Learning today during the signing of the district's second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement. These five-year agreements are a commitment by school districts, local Aboriginal communities, and the Ministry of Education to work together to support Aboriginal learners.
The colourful event began with Aboriginal student ambassadors carrying the Unity and Eagle staffs, which were recently carved and presented to the district from Westbank First Nation carver Chad Paul. Also featured were student performances of songs in the Okanagan (Nsyilxcen) language and dances.
Much progress has been made since the first agreement was signed. Academic support and unique programs such as the academy of indigenous studies and Aboriginal student leadership courses are ensuring more students are engaged and successful with their studies. The six-year completion rate for Aboriginal students in the district has risen to 66 per cent from 55 per cent five years ago.
As well, an Aboriginal graduation ceremony is held every year in May and last year 600 Aboriginal students, families, community partners and district staff were in attendance. Two grad retreats are held each year to provide an opportunity for Aboriginal graduates from all schools to gather. Last year, NHL hockey player Jordin Tootoo spoke at one of the retreats.
There are 2,228 Aboriginal students in the Central Okanagan school district for 2013-14 making up 11 per cent of the overall student population of 21,995.
Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna -
"The most basic part of a secure tomorrow is making sure today's kids are prepared for tomorrow's jobs with a good education. That starts at places like Sensisyusten House of Learning."
Peter Fassbender, Minister of Education -
"Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreements continue to foster success for Aboriginal students so they feel welcome and valued through their educational journey."
Moyra Baxter, Central Okanagan board chair -
"This Agreement will provide Aboriginal students with greater opportunities for success and will encourage the sharing of their rich Aboriginal culture and history with all students. It reflects the dedication of all those who have worked so hard to bring it to fruition."
- The Central Okanagan school district is located on the traditional territory of the Okanagan (Syilx) peoples from the Westbank First Nation and Okanagan Indian Band.
- More Aboriginal students in B.C. are completing high school than ever before as the six-year completion rate has climbed by almost 30 per cent (or 13.5 percentage points) from 45.9 per cent in 2002-03 to 59.4 per cent in 2012-13.
- Provincial funding for Aboriginal education in 2012-13 was $63 million (through a supplement of $1,160 per student).
Central Okanagan School District: www.sd23.bc.ca
Aboriginal education: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed
BC's Education Plan: www.bcedplan.ca
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Education