Ministers of education from the provinces and territories met this week in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and reaffirmed their commitment to work collaboratively with Aboriginal leaders and communities, and the federal government in areas under their
respective jurisdiction, to improve access to education and to ensure success for First Nations, MÃ©tis, and Inuit peoples.
The Premier of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Joseph Handley, welcomed ministers to the Northwest Territories. Premier Handley discussed the importance of the work being undertaken nationally by the Council of the Federation (COF) in postsecondary and skills training. He reminded ministers of the importance of including the aboriginal community in their ongoing work.
During a special session on Aboriginal education, ministers discussed the key components of a CMEC Action Plan on Aboriginal education as well as its connection to the outcomes of the November 2005 First Ministers Meeting (FMM) with Aboriginal Leaders. “To achieve our goals, we must work closely with local Aboriginal leadership and communities, as well as with the federal government, to identify a range of strategies that inspire Aboriginal students
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to achieve their educational potential,” said the Honourable Joan Burke, current Chair of CMEC, and Minister of Education for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ministers noted that although Aboriginal students tend to have lower performance in literacy than the general population, those who attained postsecondary education have similar employment rates as non-Aboriginals. “Although progress is being made, we will continue to focus on improving all Aboriginal learners’ educational experiences, including at the K-12 level, to ensure that they have improved access to education and training, to increase the number of high school and postsecondary graduates, and to ensure that Aboriginal people have increased employment opportunities,” said Minister Burke.
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Ministers agreed to follow through on the CMEC Aboriginal Education Action Plan under which they will, as first steps, share best practices, develop and improve data collection and develop a framework on teacher training.
Minister Burke will seek a meeting with the federal minister for Indian and Northern Affairs as soon as possible to discuss the CMEC Action Plan on Aboriginal Education and to encourage the federal government to work with CMEC to improve Aboriginal education in Canada.
“The current context presents a unique opportunity for us, as education ministers, to cooperate in improving educational outcomes for First Nations, MÃ©tis, and Inuit learners. CMEC has been concerned with Aboriginal education for some time. We have identified Aboriginal education as a priority for collaboration,” said the Honourable Charles Dent, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment for the Northwest Territories.
At their meeting, Ministers also discussed follow-up to the National Postsecondary Education and Skills Development Summit organized under the leadership of Premiers Charest and McGuinty on behalf of COF. A separate communiquÃ© has been issued.