Following the Mianscum report that came out in the late 1990s, the Cree School Board decided that it was time once again to look into the kind of education that was being delivered to its people.
In that the Mianscum report detailed how what the CSB was offering to students was not up to standards, a “global education plan” was developed to improve the schools, particularly in terms of pedagogical or instructional delivery. The latest review, which was conducted by a panel of experts over the course of the 2007-2008 school year, was intended to look at how well the plan was being implemented in terms of both accountability and improvement.
Unfortunately, according to CSB chairman Gordon Blackned, “we did not really improve when we developed the objectives and the goals of the Global Education Plan.”
Starting with staffing, Blackned pointed at the kinds of problems that have plagued the CSB since its inception. It was the panel’s recommendation that counseling and academic support services be stepped up to aid the students. However the board has consistently had problems both engaging and retaining psycho-educators.
At that, the CSB has struggled exponentially more than southern schools when it came to hiring quality teachers with good teaching credentials.
Between sick leaves and other forms of extended leaves coupled by a high resignation rate, “our teacher retention is very, very low and it has always been,” said Blackned.
The difficulties within the CSB were not exclusive to who was delivering the knowledge to the Cree Nation but what that knowledge was and how it was being taught.
“The problem is that we don’t have a good learning process being delivered by our teachers. This is where we are at right now,” said Blackned.
Beginning with the introduction of languages, for the time being a “complete fresh start” is being recommended for kindergarten classes with the languages of instruction being English and French as opposed to Cree.
Though this would only be temporary until a “mastery of Cree in sequenced learning outcomes” is developed for kindergarten to Secondary Five, the premise is that children are not learning sufficient language skills in the onset of schooling which hinders their performance down the line. Though Cree would by no means be eliminated from the curriculum, until a viable program is developed, those who wrote the report are suggesting that the CSB go with what exists within the Ministry of Education system.
In terms of the ministry, since the CSB began administering the same provincial exams as rest of the province back in
2004, the graduation rates have dropped significantly with many struggling to get diplomas if not at all.
Though the CSB guaranteed a viable curriculum, something that was to be standard throughout the board, it has not been homogeneously implemented in all of its schools.
“The CSB has struggled exponentially more than southern schools when it came to hiring quality teachers with good teaching credentials. “
“We presumed that teachers were teaching according to what they were supposed to be teaching and, in effect, according to the review, they weren’t. There were certain things that went wayward and that mainly has to do with different changes in the teachers, from program to program, level to level,” said Blackned.
At the same time, the CSB and its teachers are not entirely to blame as parents too are stakeholders when it comes to the education of their children, the report stated. The extreme lack in parental participation when it came to parent-teacher meetings was also a large factor when it came to students’ performance as issues do not get resolved when the problem-solving is only one-sided.
“The teachers and the school staff also feel as though they are not getting that kind of support from the parents because of certain times when children act up and get into trouble, they will want to meet with the parents to discuss the matter but the parents don’t show up,” said Blackned.
Though Blackned was very clear to point out that this is not the case with every family, as some are very helpful and supportive, the lack of parental participation also contributes to absenteeism and truancy amongst the student population.
What he would like to see is parents behaving more like educators for their own children in the sense that not only interact more often with the schools but that they also actively participate in their child’s learning outside of the schools.
Though, according to Blackned, the dust has yet to settle from the impact of the report, the CSB will be responding swiftly to develop a new curriculum along with a framework for it and in the long run a Cree Education Act.
For as much as work on the new curriculum began last year through CSB-hired educational consultants, at the present time it is unknown as to how long it will be before the new curriculum will be finalized, approved and then implemented.