Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party announced a major investment in First Nation education of over $2 billion over the next few years.
The details are not clear, but this is okay if the intent of Justin Trudeau is to engage in joint consultation with First Nations as to how to deploy this funding. If they don’t plan on working with First Nations, this plan will fail in similar fashion to the Conservative plan last year imposing the First Nation Education Act.
Let me share some of my thoughts as to how this could be done.
First and foremost, money is not a full and complete answer to some of the challenges in First Nation education. I think First Nations need to agree on some National Instrument to lay out the high-level Vision, Principles and Goals of education.
We cannot have hundreds of separate and different Visions. First Nations should come together and build this national instrument. It should also lay out funding guidelines for student tuition, special education, education infrastructure, curriculum and professional development and so on. I will also go out on a limb here and say that First Nation education should be built on self-contained funding agreements separate from the general revenue fund of each Band.
Our teachers, administrators, parents, school boards and so on have done a tremendous job with the tools at hand to make our schools successful but there is room for improvement. If we think money will be the end all and be all without looking inward and challenging ourselves to do better, then we will fail our students.
Our schools need to continuously and consistently set high expectations for our students and teachers. We need to cooperate with other schools to improve second- and third-level services. We need to pool our expertise and share this with other schools for the benefit of all our teachers and kids.
Most of all, we need to achieve comparability in funding to our provincial counterparts on the medium to longer term, but may require more upfront investment initially to address long neglected educational needs.