The Howe Sound school district’s first Aboriginal education enhancement agreement was signed Friday by First Nations leaders and members of the school district.
Local Aboriginal communities, the Ministry of Education and the school district worked together to develop several strategies to help improve student achievement, including:
• Increasing Aboriginal student completion rates through a greater focus on trades and apprenticeship programs;
• Providing greater supports, such as Aboriginal mental health counselling, for students with behaviour and learning disabilities;
• Implementing proven strategies that will improve Aboriginal student attendance and re-entry into school; and
• Improving K-12 literacy rates through increased focus on early learning opportunities and strategies.
Howe Sound is the 35 th school district to sign an Aboriginal education enhancement agreement. The agreements support the provincial government’s Pacific Leadership Agenda to build new relationships with First Nations and to close the gaps in education and economic opportunities.
"The Howe Sound school district has been working hard for the last number of years to improve achievement levels for its Aboriginal students," West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre said in a release. "Today's agreement will continue to build on that hard work and will help Howe Sound Aboriginal students achieve their best. All the partners deserve congratulations for this historic agreement."
"This agreement is important because it helps ensure Aboriginal communities have a voice in the education of Aboriginal students," said Education Minister Shirley Bond. "One of the province's goals is to increase Aboriginal student success, and this agreement helps accomplish that by clearly setting out how the district and Aboriginal communities will work together to improve results for Aboriginal students."
There are 470 Aboriginal students in the Howe Sound school district this year, about 11 per cent of the district's total enrolment. The district serves the Squamish Nation, Lil'wat Nation, N'Quatqua Band, Xax'tsa, Samahquam Ucwalmicw, Skatin Nations, Metis, Inuit as well as all other First Nations communities, including off-reserve First Nations. The district lies in the traditional territories of the Squamish Nation, Lil'wat Nation and N'Quatqua Nation.
School districts have seen encouraging results following the signing of an education enhancement agreement. In the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district, Grade 7 Aboriginal reading and writing results on the Foundation Skills Assessment improved by 20 per cent. In the Cowichan Valley school district, Aboriginal school completion rates increased from 25 per cent in 2001 to 35 per cent in 2006.