B.C. to implement new Indigenous-focused graduation requirement

B.C. to implement new Indigenous-focused graduation requirement
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The B.C. government has completed public feedback on introducing a new Indigenous-focused graduation requirement and will now embark on creating and implementing the requirement.

Starting in the 2023-24 school year, all students will be required to complete Indigenous-focused coursework in order to graduate.

More than 5,600 people around the province participated in the public engagement, which took place between March 7 and April 22.

The feedback focused on the implementation timeline, teacher qualifications, funding and resources, information for students and parents or caregivers, and broadening the eligible course offerings.

“Currently, students can take existing Indigenous-focused courses, including English First Peoples 10, 11 and 12, B.C. First Peoples 12, and Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12, all of which would meet the intended graduation requirement,” the Ministry of Education and Childcare says in a news release.

“There are also 18 First Nations language courses that are eligible to meet the new requirement, along with locally developed, Indigenous-focused board/authority-authorized courses that meet specific criteria.”

In the report, titled What We Heard Report: Indigenous-Focused Graduation Requirement, 4,605 people identified that they hope there would be additional supports for students, parents, and caregivers when implementing the new requirement, including information on which courses meet the requirement, and information on reconciliation.

The top three resources that teachers, assistants, and school district administrators would like implemented are classroom and course materials, professional development and training for teachers and classroom assistants, and resources like textbooks for students.

Two per cent of respondents urged that a trauma-informed approach should be taken, and that content should also include content that celebrates Indigenous peoples, rather than just focusing on colonization. These respondents also noted that counseling and supports should be offered to students, and allowing Indigenous students alternate options like earning the credit through volunteering with Indigenous organizations if the course content is retraumatizing for them.

The report notes 19 per cent of people were opposed to implementing an Indigenous-focused graduation requirement. Some reasons were that the courses are not “practical” or “useful” compared to other course offerings, concerns that the courses are too focused on English departments and puts too much burden on English teachers, the Indigenous content in other courses should be enough to meet the requirement, and that the additional requirement will be too burdensome for students.

“Due to the fact that their comments and responses were largely off topic, these respondents are not included in the previous sections discussing feedback and suggestions for implementation,” the report notes.

“Respondents who identified as Indigenous were significantly less likely to oppose the proposed graduation requirement; about 11% of Indigenous-identified respondents were opposed to the new requirement, compared to nearly 20% of non-Indigenous respondents.”

The implementation plan is expected to be announced in August 2022.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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