A National Accord on Indigenous Education

“On June 1, members of the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (ACDE) signed an Accord on Indigenous Education. This accord was developed to create a respectful and inclusive education curriculum that reflects the needs of Aboriginal people.”

You can find the rest of this article and a short interview with University of British Columbia Faculty of Education professor Jo-Ann Archibald here, as well as an article from Canadian newspaper MacLeans here.

According to that article (“Deans sign accord on Aboriginal education”):

“The Accord’s many goals include: reclaiming and teaching Indigenous languages, as well as promoting their use in research and scholarly writing; creating procedures in the promotion and tenure process that value work on Indigenous education projects; eliminating cultural biases in student assessment; and improving access, support and retention strategies to increase the number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people enrolling in and completing post-secondary and teacher education.”

The Accord is an aspirational document only, however it is noteworthy that no such agreement has been made between Alaska Natives and the State of Alaska articulating a vision for Alaska Native education.

Alaska is home to 19 indigenous languages, 10 major cultural regions, and approximately 104,000 Alaska Natives constituting 15% of the state population. Educational achievement for Alaska Natives is low compared to Americans as a whole, creating capacity challenges for communities in need of Alaska Native advocates, activists, and policy makers in education. Between 2005-2007 Alaska Natives had the highest high school dropout rate (11.7% compared to 3.9% for all Americans) and the fewest number of four-year college graduates (8% compared to 27% for all Americans).[i] In 2010, Alaska Natives made up 22% of enrolled K-12 students but only 55.4% graduated from high school compared to 67.7% of all Alaskans.[ii] High rates of teacher turnover (22% in 2007)[iii], a scarcity of Alaska Native educators (4% of Alaska’s educators in the 2010-11 school year)[iv], and persistent colonial attitudes and policies[v] complete a gloomy picture of education for Alaska’s first peoples. These variables make it difficult for Alaska Native communities to bridge culture and power gaps to use education as a tool to enrich rather than detract from our diverse cultures and identities.

Alaska Natives are being failed by the education provided by the State of Alaska. Continued failure has grave implications for Alaska Native languages, cultures, societies, and health. Greater measures can and must be taken by Alaska Native advocate organizations to focus on improving Alaska Native community involvement in guiding the conceptualization and delivery of Alaska Native education for Alaska Native peoples.
Canada’s National Accord on Indigenous Education may function as a potential model framing the relationship between Alaska Native education stakeholders and the State of Alaska.

[i] Martin, S. and Hill, A. (2009) “The Changing Economic Status of Alaska Natives: 1970-2007”, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, Note No. 5, Retrieved: http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Home/researchmatters_2009.html November 22, 2010

[ii] Alaska Department of Education Assessment & Development Staff (November 26, 2010), Personal Communication

[iii] Martin, S. and Hill, A. (2009) “The Changing Economic Status of Alaska Natives: 1970-2007”, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, Note No. 5, Retrieved; http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu/Home/researchmatters_2009.html November 22, 2010

[iv] Alaska Department of Education and Development & Assessment Staff (November 22, 2010), Personal Communication

[v] Hirshberg, D. B. (2001) “Northern Exploring: A Case Study of Non-Native Alaskan Education Policymakers’ Social Constructions of Alaska Natives as Target Populations”, Dissertation, University of California Los Angeles, Retrieved: http://www.alaskool.org/native_ed/Hirshbergdissertation.htm November 29, 2010

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