District principal of Indigenous education Greg Johnson (right), educators and mentors talk about work on preserving local indigenous language to the board of education at meeting earlier this year. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Indigenous students grad rates on the rise

Campbell River district collaborating with local Indigenous representatives

Indigenous students are completing secondary school here and around the province more than ever before.

A Dec. 11 news release from the Ministry of Education shows more students complete school now in part due to increased supports and a curriculum that has evolved to reflect Indigenous history in B.C.

“For too long, Indigenous students in B.C. were held back by a school system that didn’t reflect their history, honour their communities or meet their needs,” Minister of Education Rob Fleming said in the news release. “It’s inspiring to see how quickly Indigenous students respond when we begin to bring down barriers to their success. Their achievements are an important reminder of why we can’t rest until our schools support every student, no matter where they live.”

The data show in the last school year in B.C., the six-year completion rate increased by 4 per cent over the previous year, making it the largest one-year increase since 2010-11. This translates into 70 per cent of Indigenous students completing secondary school, and an 8 per cent increase over the last four years. As well, the rates for Indigenous children in the continuing custody of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, are 58 per cent, or an 8 per cent increase from the previous year before and 18 per cent since 2013-14.

The situation in Campbell River is similar, though the school district’s principal of Indigenous education Greg Johnson cautions that at the local level the numbers can fluctuate more. In the case of this year, the numbers went up but at 68 per cent are a couple of points behind the provincial figure. The year before, he adds, the rate was a couple of points higher.

“The record is improving and it mirrors the province,” he said.

Johnson also points out that while the six-year figure is one the Ministry commonly uses, the percentage for those who complete within five years is higher in Campbell River.

“We are increasing the size of our grad classes,” he said.

Johnson cautions that year-to-year completion rates do not tell the whole story. The important thing is progress over time, especially considering how the education system has changed. Locally, the district has an advisory council that includes members from local bands but also representatives for urban First Nations people and Metis from the North Island.

RELATED STORY: All Campbell River school district leads the way with indigenous training for staff

The curriculum too has evolved, with more opportunities to incorporate First Nations culture into the classroom.

“I see schools focusing on our Indigenous students way more,” he said.

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