Canada’s fastest-growing demographic, youngsters of First Nations, Metis or Inuit heritage face the bleakest outlook for employment, addiction and the risk of incarceration. Better education is key to changing that, experts agree. But the history of efforts to “educate” Aboriginal children on Euro-Caucasian lines runs a grim litany from cultural repression and worse at residential schools, to the ineffectual present. Barely 50 per cent of Aboriginal students graduate from high school, compared to 80 per cent of other British Columbians. This graduation gap lies behind countless stories of individual disappointment and misery. Taken collectively, it’s costing Canadian society billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, healthcare, social assistance, policing and incarceration.
In this series, education reporter Katie Hyslop looks at some inspiring models for doing things differently; what society’s failure to help our Aboriginal youth learn is costing the rest of us; and how the federal and provincial governments might better spend Aboriginal education dollars.