Vancouver’s school board sees potential in a school designed from curriculum up to appeal to urban First Nations youth. Fourth in a series.
[Editor's note: British Columbia's failure to meet the educational needs of its fastest-growing demographic dooms thousands of its youth to a needless struggle for employment and elevated risks of addiction and imprisonment. In this series produced by Tyee Solutions Society, Katie Hyslop has looked at some inspiring models of independent and public schools putting First Nations culture at the heart of their teaching activity. But will the same idea work as well in the Lower Mainland? In this installment, Hyslop explores conflicting views of a plan to open Vancouver's first Aboriginal focus school.]
...Scott Clark has been heavily involved in the public education movement as well as the urban Aboriginal community. He acts as spokesperson for both the Alliance of Parents and Partners to Lobby for Education in British Columbia (APPLE BC), a group of public education activists that sprang up last fall during the Save Our Schools movement, and Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement (ALIVE), a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of urban Aboriginals.
A father of three whose youngest is entering Grade 4 this year, Clark attended both the board’s school closure meetings and some of the Aboriginal focus school meetings. He was impressed with how well the board engaged the community’s views, especially over school closures. “I think the Vancouver School Board model of community consultation really set a new benchmark for how governments should work, because they set up a really dynamic process where, for the first week, they went to each of the schools in the evening time and provided the information, and really allowed the community members to discuss their concerns and raise their issues,” says Clark.
In considering the new Aboriginal focus school, he adds, the board, “did another pretty intensive consultation process with community members, parents, stakeholders like teachers and other professionals. And from that point they made the decision to proceed on creating an Aboriginal working group on what an Aboriginal school/comprehensive strategy for the district would look like.”
Aboriginal consultation in education ‘critical’: VSB
This isn’t the school district’s first flirtation with an Aboriginal-focused school. A similar idea was floated in 1995 but lost steam over fears there weren’t enough Aboriginal students to attend or sufficient parental support. The district’s First Nation and Métis student population, roughly 2,000 kids, hasn’t changed. But the district believes their parents have come round to the proposal.