My identified problem is the lower grades, outcomes, and standards which exist in Northern community schools. Through evidence, I believe I will ascertain that this problem is a result of the disconnect between western-rooted curriculum and Indigenous traditional practices, and intergenerational trauma, in Northern Indigenous communities.
To study how trauma-informed curriculum, and traditional Indigenous teaching practices impact the grades and standards of students in Northern (Territorial) Indigenous schools.
In 2015, a comprehensive report which looks at Canada’s performance globally in order to provide an overview of the available data placed Canada in the top 10 for performance, efficiency, and equity of education. At provincial schools, the graduation rate is over 75%. There is a wide gap between the education of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people however. Over 57% of young adults in Indigenous communities or on-reserve have not completed high school, and other statistics show that less than 40% will graduate. Another study showed that the increase in funding will not result in better quality education or higher graduation rates.
Federal bureaucrats in charge of First Nation schools have labelled Indigenous education as a ‘non-system’ because Indigenous students are being so ill-served. Former Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennet stated "many communities lack the educational systems and structures required to close the educational outcome gap." In 2012, the Council of Ministers of Education released a report stating that there are several barriers to Indigenous student success in Canada including the legacy of residential schools, racism, social disadvantage, poor mental health, and the low school engagement.
This study matters because it is unequitable, unjust, and unbelievable that in 2020, Indigenous communities still face living conditions and structures which Canada at large does not. It is a form of systemic racism to provide Indigenous communities with lesser-than education, from a country who continuously ranks high in the world. Education is critical to improving social and economic strength. By not providing adequate education, Indigenous people continue to remain lesser-than in society, and not be able to improve their communities to a level experienced by other Canadians. Education improves prospects and reduces poverty, which can benefit the hundreds of marginalized Indigenous communities. Moreover, in not involving the Indigenous communities in determining the kind of education it’s children receive, we are continuing the detrimental cycle of eliminating Indigenous voice and culture. This study matters because Indigenous education matters, and Indigenous education begins with Indiginizing curriculum.
Primary research question: Why do students in Northern Indigenous schools have lower grades and lower standards compared to their counterparts in southern schools?
Sub-question 1 (Quantitative): Does trauma impact the performance of Indigenous students in the North?
Sub-question 2(Quantitative):: Does incorporating traditional educational practices improve the performance of Indigenous students in the North?
Sub-question 3 (Qualitative): What types of curriculum improve the performance of Indigenous students in Northern communities?
I believe it is important first to reach out to the Indigenous communities members that work and learn in the community schools. They are the ones who have had longer, first-hand experience with the educational system in the Northern Territories. Moreover, they have witnessed the outcomes and performance over the course of their lifetime. Many Indigenous educators and staff often find themselves in roles such as EAs or secretarial work, whereas the primary educators are usually from the south (often Caucasian). By including Indigenous peoples as the primary participants in the study, they are able to provide insight into why the graduation rate is so low, and so few students go on to end up educating in their own communities. They are also able to describe how they incorporate their culture and histories within their roles in the educational system. It will be important to look at either a specific band of First Nation, Inuit, or Metis – or attempt to incorporate the perspectives of all three Indigenous groups, as they experienced colonialism differently and have vastly different traditions and cultures.
· Indigenous students
· Indigenous educators
· Indigenous staff
I will also need to interview Caucasian staff as they are the ones who do the teaching and administration of these community schools. Their role in how they educate, how they interpret the curriculum, and how they incorporate trauma or traditional methods, likely will highlight the performance of Indigenous students. Southern students, who are often Caucasian (but not always, which is why both need to be examined), will also need to participate in the study to determine the differences in performance between them and Indigenous students.
· Southern educators
· Southern students
· Caucasian students
· Southern staff
I live in the North, and have worked in several Indigenous communities. Currently I work in a community which is beside an Indigenous community, and is a mix of both Kaska First Nation and Caucasian peoples. I keep in contact with the administration and teachers at all four schools I have worked at. Most of the students are First Nation which leads me to primarily focusing on Northern First Nation groups. I am also a part of the communities Facebook pages. I would recruit by asking the schools for help, as well as the communities at large. Having been highly involved in community events, I have access to many participants who already know about my research goals and have offered to help.
For participation I will require permission from:
· Different school boards in both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. I may reach out to a board in Nunavut.
· Specific sites: four to six community schools
· Parents of participants (i.e. Students parents or guardians)
Collecting My Data
Will be used to help answer “Does trauma impact the performance of Indigenous students in the North?” and “Does incorporating traditional educational practices improve the performance of Indigenous students in the North?”
· Systematic sampling
o Choosing a percentage of students from different Indigenous communities to see the similarities and differences based on location in the North
o Similarly, a percentage of educators with different backgrounds
· Simple random sampling
o Selecting Indigenous students for the sample at random. The bias in the population will be equally distributed among the people chosen and will give me an idea of the performance of Indigenous students at multiple grades/levels
o Selecting southern or Caucasian students for the sample at random. The bias in the population will be equally distributed among the people chosen and will give me an idea of the performance of these students at multiple grades and levels – and give me something to compare my Indigenous student data with.
o Similarly, random sampling of educators and their backgrounds
· Stratified sampling:
o Stratify the Indigenous population on the specific characteristic of band or gender and sampling within each group to see if specific bands, or specific genders, play a role in schooling performance for Indigenous students
o Similarly, stratifying educators based on their cultural backgrounds
Will be used to help answer “What types of curriculum improve the performance of Indigenous students in Northern communities?”
· Maximal variation sampling
o Sample individuals that differ on characteristics (specifically Indigenous band, group, or southern background or education level)
· Extreme case sampling
o Choosing a case of a more southern-dominated school (more southern educators and students) to compare to an extremely Indigenous-dominated school (more Indigenous educators and students)
· Typical sampling
o Studying Indigenous communities which are similar in location and Indigenous band to help generate a theory or concept relating to how curriculum has impacted the students
· Homogeneous sampling
o Focusing on Indigenous bands because they have a membership to the Indigenous group that is defining my research