B.C.’s auditor general says the education ministry has taken action to close gaps in education outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous education, but there is still work to do.

In Carol Bellringer’s progress report released Tuesday, the graduation rate for Indigenous students is at 70 per cent through the 2017-18 school year, up eight points over the last four years, but 16 per cent lower than non-Indigenous students.

That gap has narrowed since 2014, when the graduation rate was 24 per cent lower for Indigenous students.

The rate continues a steady climb since 2008 and is nearly double the Indigenous graduation rate in 2000 that stood at 39 per cent.

The auditor’s office says because Indigenous students are a faster growing segment of the student population and as a vulnerable group, the stakes are higher to have a better chance at improved life opportunities such as employment and health.

Bellringer says the ministry still has work to do in areas such as developing an Indigenous Education strategy, ensuring collection of important data around student success and reporting publicly on progress.

In 2005, the government committed to closing the graduation gap and the original audit in 2015 made 12 recommendations to assist the ministry to do so.

The report says the ministry has made progress on all the recommendations and has fully implemented four of them.

Those include a new curriculum to teach all students about Indigenous culture and history, introduced the “Equity in Action” program to guide districts to identify barriers to Indigenous student success, hire a director of Indigenous analytics to improve how it uses data to focus on the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and to revise a policy to use Evergreen certificates.

In 2015, the auditor heard of low expectations from educators and district staff for Indigenous students based on social preconceptions and biases.

Evergreen certificates are given to students with significant disabilities who are not able to complete their graduation requirements and the 2015 audit found Indigenous students were more likely to be granted an Evergreen, even when they didn’t have disabilities.

Bellringer says the ministry plans to finalize an official framework policy for the next school year and Indigenous groups are represented on an advisory committee working on the policy.

CHEK