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Aboriginal Education in Canada: Retrospective

Present conditions, the residential school for aboriginal education in Canada

Education is the foundation that creates the overall development of an individual. It is a generally agreed fact that education is the birthright of a person. If an individual lacks it, his/her life will be meaningless. Aboriginal education is the most modern general term used to refer to Canada’s original people. Under Canadian aboriginal people there undergo a long period of inequity on the basis of their color and customs. The native people of Canada suffers a lot as they were facing such problems in every field. One of such main problems is in the field of education. A very small number of the aboriginal Canadian students had completed the secondary education. In Canada major educational institutions were established by the Christian religion and it is because of this reason itself aboriginal Canadian students were tortured by the non-aboriginals. Even though there are some educational institutions situated in some distant places and the native Canadian students need to go far away from their families for their education. In schools they have to undergo great challenges as the school scheme gives a bitter experience for the Aboriginal people. As a result there arise many communal problems and this still continues among the locals in Canada.

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When one goes to study the education of Canadian inhabitants it shows that even the teachers are not bothered about the students’ education. For them, Canadian aboriginals were mere “strangers”. Even if a teacher wants to discuss this, surely they will not have any idea; the reason is that they didn’t even try to study about this culture. Even in the schools physical as well as sexual ill-treatment take place on these native Canadians. The natives didn’t get average concern while comparing to the non-natives. In the article ‘Race and Culture,’ “Historian E. Brian and Barman mentioned that the natives’ students received only half the classroom instruction of the provided to non-natives and they also required little more practical training than the non-natives, such as working in the garden or cleaning the school.” (Race and culture, n.d., p.75). From this one can view that in the past the Aboriginal people were treated as uncivilized, filthy creatures. At first the native and non-native people were sitting together in the class but the white parents did not like this and they asked to eradicate these aboriginal people from the class. The white people were not bothered that the native Canadians and their customs were in need of the welfare of the country. Aboriginal people say that on various levels they were ill-treated in their own land and they point out that they even lost their culture by the supremacy of the whites. They don’t have a permanent house to live and as they are not getting proper education it seems difficult to find a job.

There are some solutions to overcome this problem and Batiste says that through decolonization Canadian natives can have a dependency on their own land and for that they should preserve their own culture. There occurred some slow changes in the condition of the native Canadians, but to have a full freedom for the natives in the future they should have a mind to overcome this situation. After the Second World War there were many changes and the Aboriginal people went to the urban area with a hope of finding a better job, better life, education and after that the situation became a bit better. If the literacy skill improved among the Aboriginal community then there will be a slight increase in their socio-economic field. If the aboriginals suffered from lack of education and if they overcome this by taking a good measure, they can surely survive from the cruel deeds of the white’s supremacy.

Susan D. Dion in her article “Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, responsibilities and relationships –teachers and indigenous subject material” discusses the strangeness attitude of teachers towards the aboriginal people and she says that through a moral learning they will have an awareness about the identities of the Aboriginal people. She then continues by saying that the formation of this ethical awareness with the teacher is the best method to make a good relationship between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. The majority of teachers have only a restricted knowledge about the past ethnicity of these people.

The challenges and problems of the Aboriginal education in Canada

There are a lot of challenges and problems for the Aboriginal people of Canada. The Aboriginal people lack enough security, consideration and facilities for the development as good citizens. They lack chance of proper education as there is a low secondary school achievement rate of Aboriginal education. There is no central department of education and no nationalized system of education. Thus the educational accomplishment of Aboriginal students’ leftovers is one of the greatest challenges in education in Canada as Aboriginal completion rates are wrapped by the non-aboriginal population. While comparing to the non-aboriginal population, around 50 percentage aboriginal students lack secondary school education. Though the percentage of students – the aboriginals and non-aboriginals – seems to be nearer to the college and professional education, a gap appears when it reaches the university level. Most of the students lack the opportunity of good education and are forced to attend cheaper educational institutions with average teachers. The census of 2001 shows that at a level higher than that of the non-aboriginal students the aboriginals students are not finishing their secondary education. There are two tables – while one compares the aboriginal and non-aboriginal population based on the highest level of education they achieved between the age of 20 and 24 and the second shows the uppermost level of achievement of aboriginal and non-aboriginal populations in their post-secondary education between the age of 25 and 64.

While looking the first table (see appendix-1) percentages of population who have completed the secondary education shows that in 2001 just half of the aboriginal people completed the secondary education than the non-aboriginals. The second table (see appendix-2) shows some hopeful achievements the aboriginals had in the post-secondary education for the past few years. (Indigenous education in Canada, n.d.).

The residential school for Aboriginal Children in Canada has existed since 1960s and the Law Commission of Canada informs that one-third of the Aboriginal children were cramped in Residential school till their early childhood. The institution of Residential school for the aboriginal children and its policies were completely racialist. There prevailed a purposeful effort to destroy the aboriginal language and culture and this is the soul of the residential school experiment. The conditions of the aboriginal children in the residential school were worse than hell such as terrible and unhealthful living conditions, undernourishment, low quality education, insufficient training and administration of staff. These reasons were enough for the physical and sexual abuse in the residential school. Most often, in schools shorter time periods are for classroom education and very often the students are forced to study in a second language and for becoming civilized in the nation the federal policy declared that every Aboriginal student should talk in English language. “The languages that most boys and girls brought with them to school were almost always prohibited, even when private conversation between pupils, native languages were forbidden, English was the only allowable language.” (British Columbia aboriginal children, n.d., p.63).This indicates the lack of freedom of aboriginal students to speak in their mother tongue and also the Canadian federal’s abuse towards the aboriginal language. The schools need innovative curriculum which discusses the social and cultural traditions of aboriginals. Lack of experienced teachers and other educational faculties affect the smooth functioning of an educational institution.

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The aboriginals face challenges in the literary field too as the works of the aboriginal people are differentiated from the others and they are not put into the Canadian literature. For example, Native American writers such as Silko, Momaday and Erdrich often appear in the modern American literature but no writings of Canadian Aboriginal writers such as Clutesi, Campbell and Culleton are found in the Canadian modern literature. In US the Native American writers are well educated and most of the academics are comfortable but the situation is different in Canada as the Canadian Aboriginal Literature is not comfortable in many academics for several reasons. The government of United States gives much consideration to the education of the native people; they gained many opportunities in the fields of education and became employees in the cities. While the situation is totally different as the Aboriginal people do not get an opportunity for better education and all are in favor of the Non-Aboriginals. One of the most notable points is that all the creators of interpretations are not Aboriginals but the colonized scholars and thus many explanations of Aboriginal Literature lack the elementary perceptive of the ideological background in which the works were written.

The only positive treatment the aboriginal education gets today is from the jurisdiction as they have some approaches and action procedures for aboriginal education and among these policies there are some positive impacts on the aboriginal completion rates. The major policies undertaken by the jurisdiction for the aboriginals are the following.

  1. The public’s straight association in the design, delivery and assessment of education for the Aboriginal students’ education and this action will have a desired effect for the improvement of Aboriginal education.
  2. The employment of Aboriginal teachers: This policy will also have a great impact on the progress of aboriginal students both in their studies and career.
  3. The method of including Aboriginal perspectives such as culture, history, languages and values in the educational curriculum. This action will be very effective in the development of the aboriginal education.
  4. Applying early childhood education and providing supportive services in pre-secondary education for aboriginal students helps to improve academic performance of aboriginal students.
  5. The expansion of choice of courses in the secluded areas through distance learning to aboriginal students. This is very effective for the aboriginal students to complete their secondary school in their home communities. Implementation of new instructional strategies and learning theories constitutes positive developments in the current education scenario of aboriginal students in Canada. Studies prove that innovative instructional strategies such as multicultural education, cooperative learning, and transformative learning are helpful to prevent racial, political, ethnic and religious discriminations in general education.
  6.  Scheming of some technological and professional courses. The introduction of this scheme is highly beneficial to the aboriginal students for the attainment of better education and a profession too. (Indigenous education in Canada, n.d.).

With these necessary steps there will be a better progress for aboriginals in the field of education. Government can promote remedial measures through legislation and other administrative programs. This kind of curriculum is needed for the Aboriginals. Effective functioning of parental associations in schools ensures proper monitoring of school activities – academic and non-academic.


In the history of Canada we can see that there is great discrimination between the Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, mostly based on their color and custom. By this inequality the aboriginals faced a lot of problems because the educated people among aboriginals are very few when compared to non-aboriginals. Most of the non-aboriginals are educated so they got good skill and knowledge for better education and they developed a lot. Majority of the aboriginals have not even completed their high school so they are not able to do any job and for this reason they are underdeveloped. The aboriginals are treated badly by the non-aboriginals and also the aboriginals are worried about the knowledge of non-aboriginals. Evaluation makes clear the necessity of treating aboriginals in a good manner. In later period, there started some changes in the development of the aboriginals. During the period of 1884 and 1920 the inequality became average in Canada. The US government had given importance to the education of the Aboriginals and also the territories worked with the theme for their development and they made aware the aboriginals about the importance of education. So the aboriginals started studying and later found little progress in them that they have reached the same or higher level as the non-aboriginals. “The council of Ministers of Education, Canada, the ministers responsible for education in the provinces and territories established Aboriginal education as one of their three priorities, along with literacy and postsecondary capacity and developed a Council of Ministers of Education, Canada Action Plan on Aboriginal Education.” (Indigenous education in Canada, n.d., p.4). So, from the past history and present Canada, one can understand that only through education, inequality based on the culture, rich and poor, color etc can be eliminated. When the Aboriginals started studying they reached with the non-Aboriginals. For the development of every country education is essential.


  1. British Columbia Aboriginal Children. (n.d.). 63. (Provided by customer).
  2. Indigenous education in Canada. (n.d). Council of Ministers of Education, Canada Conseil des Ministres de I Education (Canada).
  3. Indigenous education in Canada: Government priorities. (n.d). Council of Ministers of Education, Canada Conseil des Ministres de I Education (Canada). 4.
  4. Race and culture. (n.d.). 75. (Provided by customer).


Table One – Secondary School Education – Highest Level of Schooling Age of Population
2001 Census
Less than Secondary School Secondary School Completion
15 years of age and older
Aboriginal Population 48% 14%
Non-Aboriginal Population 31% 10%
20 to 24 years of age
Aboriginal Population 43% 16%
Non-Aboriginal Population 15% 15%
25 to 64 years of age
Aboriginal Population 39% 23%
Non-Aboriginal Population 22% 15%


Table Two – Postsecondary Education – Highest Level of Schooling Age of Population
2001 Census
Trade Certificate College Completion University Completion
25 to 64 years of age
Aboriginal Population 16% 15% 8%
Non-Aboriginal Population 13% 18% 15%

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