Supporting Education for Indigenous People in Canada

Studies show a link between higher education and economic development.  The United Nations lists Universal Primary Education as one of its Millennium Development Goals: “Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.”  PWRDF partners and programs work to enable young people to complete their education around the world.

In Canada, PWRDF partners work to promote education for Indigenous people.  The Assembly of First Nations recently published a fact sheet about First Nations Post-Secondary Education.  While 23% of non-Indigenous adults in Canada have achieved a university degree, less than 8% of Indigenous adults have done so.  The major barriers to post-secondary education for Indigenous people include: not being able to afford it, problems with alcohol/drugs, pregnancy, and a lack of encouragement for engaging in post-secondary education.  The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) is designed to support Indigenous people in overcoming these barriers.  In 2008, the PSSSP supported over 22,000 Indigenous students.

On February 15, Adele Finney, PWRDF’s Executive Director, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of Canada, sent a letter of support to the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, on behalf of the First Nations Adult and Higher Education Consortium, a PWRDF partner.  This letter calls on the federal government “to work hand-in-hand with First Nations” to implement recommendations from the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs’ Committee on Education about improving the PSSSP.  The letter also asks the government to support Indigenous institutes which have created approaches to learning which enable Indigenous people to learn better than they often can in other institutions. It ends by acknowledging these institutions play a pivotal role in research, curriculum development and provision of student/teacher supports that ensure accessibility and retention.

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