Manitoba, MMF to partner on Métis education strategy

The strategy will tackle cultural learning supports and graduates’ transitions into the workforce and post-secondary education.

A new intergovernmental partnership is investigating ways to improve academic outcomes, including student engagement and graduation rates, among Red River Métis children and youth studying in K-12 schools across the province.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba Métis Federation and Manitoba Education announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding that lays the groundwork for a “a shared, long-term, distinctions-based education strategy.”

“It’s the beginning of a new journey that we’re going to be working on together, and it’s going to ensure that our students stay in school and that they’re successful throughout their educational journey,” said Joan Ledoux, MMF minister of education.

The Métis education strategy, which has been a year in the making, is anticipated to tackle cultural learning supports, data analysis and graduates’ transitions into both the workforce and post-secondary education.

The partners are planning to establish a working group featuring representatives from key stakeholders, including the provincial education department’s Indigenous inclusion directorate, public school boards, teachers’ society and association of superintendents.

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Ledoux said she wants to bolster school curriculum on her peoples’ distinct history and cultural practices so Métis students know where they come from and others understand the uniqueness between Indigenous groups.

There is also a need to remove barriers, especially financial ones, that marginalized learners face, she said.

The high price tag of post-secondary education has long prevented Métis citizens from pursuing it, Ledoux said, noting the MMF has recorded a surge in the number of students enrolling in these institutions since Ottawa dedicated more bursary dollars for them.

There are about 1,200 Métis students enrolled in colleges and universities this year, up from 350 in 2019, Ledoux added.

Manitoba does not publish detailed reports on Métis student achievement, although its annual elementary, middle and high school evaluations chart a stark gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners’ academic success.

MMF indicated it currently collects specific demographic data, but could not provide information Tuesday.

Last year, Manitoba’s on-time graduation rate was nearly 83 per cent provincewide. Among non-Indigenous students, it was 91 per cent — 40 points higher than the same figure for First Nations, Métis and Inuit pupils.

The discrepancies start when students are young: only 17 per cent of third graders who identify as Indigenous were meeting grade-level expectations for mathematics in the fall, compared to 39 per cent of their non-Indigenous peers.

Grade 3 reading results show one-quarter of the former group is on-track versus half of the latter cohort.

These figures reflect the disproportionately high number of racialized people living in poverty and intergenerational scars connected to the residential school system and other colonial policies.

Manitoba Education Minister Wayne Ewasko indicated one of the objectives of the partnership is to “collect more robust data.”

“The scope of the working group will include consideration of the nature and scope of the learning environment, associated supports, and curricula needed to facilitate the increased success of Métis learners in the K to 12 education system,” Ewasko said in a statement.

The minister noted this partnership advances commitments set forth in the province’s Indigenous education policy framework, Mamahtawisiwin: the Wonder We Are Born With and builds on existing collaborations with MMF to both promote Michif and roll out the elders-in-schools initiative.

This story was originally published in The Free Press. It is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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