A boost in Indigenous education is on the way for Border School Division students and staff. Officials are currently looking at how to bring this added learning into the classroom and are developing an Indigenous Education Strategy to help guide the process.
Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Toews says it's an attempt to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Report on Canada's residential school system, noting of the ninety-four calls to action, eleven speak directly to matters related to education.
"...One of our (divisional) priorities is Relationships, Relevant Learning, and Engagement and we were at a spot in our planning cycle where we needed to reinvent or rethink the work that that priority committee was doing," explained Toews when describing how this work got started.
He says this provided administrators the opportunity to pick-up on a subject that is current and also lacking in the Division. "Not that we don't pay attention to Indigenous students and Indigenous issues but we don't have a strategic plan in place to do it across the Division, so it's our attempt to respond very thoughtfully and deliberately to the broader pictures in our Canadian context."
Toews added that work on this strategic plan has been happening since the start of the school year in fall.
He says one of the first pieces of learning for staff in this process will be to know what the various calls to action are, adding that in-depth work will begin this fall whenCharlene Bearhead from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission speaks to the entire BLSD staff including bus drivers, secretaries, librarians, EAs and professional staff.
"Initially the learning will happen with our priority committee and then from there we'll filter that to our professional staff, our teaching staff and EAs, and then from there, we're going to definitely move to our classrooms. In fact, that's really what the calls to action invite us to, to bring it down to the student level."
And while Toews admits it'll be about two to three years before the plan is fully implemented, he says there are small steps that BLSD can take immediately. An example is the Access in Choice Initiative where every student in Border Land School Division is given an allocation to purchase a book for the school's library.
"So one of the things that we're really trying to encourage now is try and build a series of resources that focus on Indigenous learning, Indigenous stories, Indigenous literature."
Overall, Toews hopes this Indigenous Education Strategy will encourage learning for everyone and says one thing that's become apparent to him is that we all need to understand more fully the impact and the legacy of residential schools in Canada.
"Not so that we can get stuck in the past, but so that we can understand how to move forward and know that there is a way forward. Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission actually says, that we can reconcile what has happened in the past."
And while Border Land is considered an inclusive division for all students, Toews says that, within the Canadian context, officials have a certain obligation when it comes to Canada's history related to Indigenous people.