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What is the government doing to improve learning for indigenous students?

Monday May 7, in Estimates, I asked Minister Ian Wishart about his approach to Indigenous Education in Manitoba.  My question and the Minister's response is below. 

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): The minister has indicated that he wants to improve learning in this province, and we know that graduation rates for indigenous learners are lower than others in the province. Of course, some of the indigenous learners will be in First Nations communities, and the federal government has been doing some work to increase funding. But many of the indigenous learners are in  non-reserve communities, and–whether they be Metis or whether they be in Winnipeg or Brandon or many other places.
      What is the minister's specific plan to improve learning among indigenous students?
Mr. Wishart: I thank the member for River Heights from–for his question.
      Certainly, we are very interested in improving literacy and numeracy and graduation rates, and we certainly see–and I think the member has heard us reference already in the House a time or two the literacy-numeracy strategy we have been actively consulting on, putting together, which included a summit that–this last January, and we expect very shortly to have a document to release around that.  And it has been a long time in the process, but   it would–certainly, if you want to do proper consultation, you can't rush these things too fast through the system.
      But, in the meantime, of course, we're looking for many opportunities to improve graduation rates. We've been working with the First Nations school system, the council that has been in place for many years. But, as the member knows, there was a federal announcement with the council and–to change some of the funding numbers. It was originally supposed to be 16 schools; in the end, I think they reached agreement with 12 of the 16, and those are in place, and they have received additional funding.
      But in the–also, related to that, we have expanded what we offer in terms of services and materials and resource materials. I know the antibullying program was expanded to those First Nation schools as well. We're trying very hard to work with them in a constructive manner to try and get better results.
      One of the areas where we offer services and that First Nations schools are often interested in is–federal government doesn't do vocational as part of their school system. We do. We think that that's an area that there's a surprising amount–or, a lot of interest in, and we certainly want to see more done in that, so we have been working constructively to have agreements with school divisions now and get them access to vocational shop space within the school divisions that exist out there now.
      And we've also had some discussions about some post-secondary institutions that have shop space in The Pas and getting some of the school system access to that, whether they be First Nations or whether they be public school system, because shops are expensive to build, as the member probably appreciates, and hard to keep up to date. And we want to keep them as busy as possible. We want to have as many people have access to those. We can't–we won't likely be duplicating a lot of them, so we're trying to provide opportunities to use that.
      So that's one of the areas in particular where we see good opportunities. And we've seen great response to access to vocational from some of the First Nations communities as a great incentive to keep people in the school system that may well have not graduated, or fallen out of the system.
* (16:50)
      But the long-term focus has to be getting everyone started right, whether they're in a public school, whether they're in a First Nation school, whether in private school, getting that early years literacy and numeracy in place. We know from research here and other places, that there is good results from that, and then those good results show all the way through the education process, all the way through to grade 12. And so we're certainly looking to do more of that as much as possible.
      So, to make a long answer short, I mean, we're looking to work with them in a number of various–pretty much somebody came with–to us now with a good proposal around First Nations schools and working together, we'd be on board.


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