Sunday, March 01, 2009

Radical change to education in Prince George generates controversy

The Prince George Citizen has provided for some fairly interesting reading on the educational front this past week, as that city engages into what has become a rather controversial debate over the plans to change one of the city’s elementary schools into a school dedicated towards the education of First Nations children.

The plan is a response to Education Minister Shirley Bond’s blue print for education that called for all 60 school districts in the province to “reinvest themselves in the issue of aboriginal education.”

The answer from School District 57 which serves the Prince George area was to reinvent the focus and curriculum of Carney Hill elementary school.
With the K-7 school already featuring a First Nations enrollment rate of 80 per cent of the student body, many in the community suggest it’s just reflecting the reality of Prince George’s population demographics, but the plan to have the school house predominately First Nations students, is leading for other Prince George residents to ask if it is not just another form of segregation. Even if for the best of intentions as far as improving the participation rate and graduation rates of First Nations students.

Non First Nations students in the catchment area would still be attending Carney Hill, at the moment that group makes up about 20 per cent of the student population of 180 students.

The proponents of the project are pointing towards other First Nations oriented schools in Western Canada that have found success and generated increased achievement rates in their student body. It’s their hope that by making Carney Hill an Aboriginal Choice school, that those same results will come to First Nations students in Prince George.

However, before that process begins, it would seem that Prince George is set for a rather vigorous debate on the issue, one that will no doubt test the many social boundaries for local residents.
In the end though, the desired result should be for an improvement on academic levels for all students, if the current models are failing some, then clearly other options will need to be explored, this is one option, controversial as it is, whether it is a step that will be made is something that will no doubt be the topic of conversation in Prince George for the months to come.

While Prince George residents sort through their emotions and thoughts on the project, the rest of the province will no doubt be watching to see if the current debate in that city provides for a workable solution to a very real concern, or if it leaves the community divided with a very clear focal point for those divisions.

Links to the Prince George Citizen series of articles on the issue can be found below.

No comments: