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Struggle of Canadian aboriginal students in education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 4590 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The struggle of the Canadian aboriginal people is based in education. The struggle is for them to regain the control of their livelihood as communities and as nations. The aboriginal people’s population has been on the increase for the past decade. Their largest population lives in the main population centers of Canada. The overall education standards of aboriginal people lag behind the overall education standards of Canada. According to Levin, (2009), there are an estimated 40 % of aboriginal people that dropped out of secondary school as compared to 20% of the total population of Canada. For the 20 years, the attainment of education among aboriginal people has improved though still quite low. The growth in numbers of aboriginal people with completed high school in the past decade led to the improvement of their public image. Despite the improvements, aboriginal education is still not much successful (Levin, 2009).

Aboriginal education and obstacles to understanding

The history of the aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal people dates back many years ago. The non- aboriginal people (Europeans) came to the aboriginal’s land. They started to coexist with the aboriginal people teaching the non-aboriginal people so many things for effective coexistence. Friendship and peace treaties enabled them to stay peacefully. With the royal proclamation of 1963, the distinction was made between the need for land and the need for the protection of the aboriginal people’s rights. As time moved on, more Europeans arrived outnumbering the native aboriginal people which was characterized by poverty and diseases. With the British war of 1812-1814, the aboriginal people were declined of their position as the allies to the military. This implanted into their heads the idea that the British people were superior than they were. This explains the dominion and assimilation by the non-aboriginals (Levin, 2009).

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The aboriginal people make up many nations in Canada. These people have unique culture, beliefs and values. Within a specific region, there could be diverse number of people with different and diverse cultures. The Indian act of 1876 imposed oppression against the aboriginal people. The federal government controlled the schooling of aboriginals’ children (Antone, (2003). Through the system, the government did not educate the children but was rather transforming their minds (Battiste, (1995). The aboriginal children were exposed to forces of cognitive imperialism which are very distractive. This resulted into the children losing the world view, their language and their culture. This caused an upheaval in the aboriginal communities socially and psychologically. The major cultural aspects of the aboriginals were lost. They included the cultural aspects in relation to hunting, fishing, medicine and religion (Antone, (2003). According to Eileen and Tania (2005), the colonialism history disrupted the aboriginals’ way of transmitting knowledge. The effect is long-lasting. The original aboriginal education and literacy and the philosophies were historically passed down the lineage by oral means and they wee kept by the old men (elders). The non-aboriginal education programs are characterized by the radio, the TV, and the video games. All these have replaced the traditional aboriginal ways of passing knowledge from one generation to the other (Smith, 1999). The non-aboriginal systems of education have resulted in the loss of respect for the aboriginal traditions and elders and the language. Despite all these challenges that aboriginal education is facing, the elders are trying to find where they belong in the society as they try to bring reinstate the aboriginal culture (Eileen, & Tania, (2005).

The aboriginal education differs fro the non-aboriginal education in various ways. The literacy levels among the aborigines are quite low with many adults being illiterate. According to Richards (2008), the performance of aborigines in on-off-reserve schools is quite low. Richard (2008) reports findings from the census data that the non- aboriginal young people (under 45 yrs) have high education as compared to older Canadians. He adds that there is a universal demand for high school certificates. More so, there is an increased gap between aboriginal and non aboriginal high school education qualifiers with the gaps more being more pronounced at those levels that are beyond the secondary school (Richards, 2008).

The non-aboriginal education system does not uphold the aboriginal language and literacy. The system elevates the understanding of certain foreign competencies as it undermines the competencies of aboriginal education system. This has led to the feeling of low self esteem and inadequacy among aboriginal students hence high school dropout rates and the poor performance. Therefore, the non-aboriginal system of education dos not values the aboriginal’s language, culture and their traditions (Richards, 2008). The literacy system that is used is foreign and is one of the reasons as to why the aboriginals perform poorly in academic institutions. A holistic approach to this issue will go a great way in solving the aboriginal’s literacy. The literacy leaning process to be used should include all the aspect of the aboriginal’s culture including the language. To overcome the challenges, the aboriginal students should be taught by aboriginal teachers using their own modes of teaching like storytelling, observation and by the use of performed knowledge (Richards, 2008).

The implication of the low aboriginal high school education is seen in the productivity levels of Canada. It is also seen in poverty and the racial tension that exists. The fertility rate among aboriginal students is high thus characterized by many school dropouts (La Prairie, 1995).

Transition to urban environments

The aboriginal people underwent a lot of problems resulting from colonization. The children were forced to under a foreign literacy system that affected them by far. Through the non-aboriginal education system, the aboriginal children were taught in foreign language that they did not understand. They were also taught foreign cultures and alienated far away from their culture. Though the literacy system, they were taught that their culture is inferior. As a result of that, they suffered from colonialism, many of them suffering from low self esteem. They were characterized by poverty and poor lifestyles (Malatest, 2004).

According to Gallant, (2003), the poor aboriginal children were vulnerable to alienation from culture and their society. They also suffered from hopelessness. She argues that the children live in poverty and in a world that is full of violence and racism. The above problems that the aboriginal youth are susceptible to are accompanied by other social problems like high school drop out rates, high suicide rates, high crime rates and poverty rates. In her report, Galant (2003) finds a multitude of problems that the youth experience as they move from the poor rural areas to urban areas. These problems are as a result of colonialism. They include:

Problems of lack of identity: This is accompanied by the lack of culture and the native language. With this problem, the youth experience isolation and alienation which make involvement in gang and illegal activities very attractive for the aboriginal youths. These aboriginal youths face the challenge of trying to cope with the many different cultures of the non-aboriginal nature that are very hostile to the aboriginal culture (Galant, 2003).

Education: due to poor school attendance be cause of inadequate funding, there are high dropout rates among the aboriginal youths. They end up with low education levels and high unemployment t rates translating to job prospects that are poor hence increased poverty (HRSDC, 2009).

Parental care: given the poor settings of the aboriginal families, the parents are busy fending for their children as the children go to school. These parents rarely get enough time for the family. These families are dysfunctional with absentee parents (Evans, 1998).

Early maturity: the poor lifestyles hat the aboriginal children lead makes them mature faster since some of them are left to work and feed themselves at tender ages. This makes them mature faster resulting in becoming parents early with poor parental skills (Gallant, 2003).

Substance abuse: the aboriginal children who come from many rural places have little parental care. Due to low self esteem and alienation, many become victims of substance abuse. This they take believing that it will reduce the stress and the depression while boosting their morale (Gallant, 2003).

Poverty: these children are vulnerable to poverty because of the poor socialization process that they receive. Their parents are poor and are rarely there for them. They are rarely monitored and advised on the best way for the future. The low self esteem they gain frustrates them thus making them lead poor lives (Friedel, 1999).

Racism: this is accompanied by discrimination. It really lowers their self esteem and their confidence fostering hostility against their broader society (Smith, 1999). They feel alienated and marginalized.

The above problems that face the aboriginal youth require a solution. The solution is not definite. They need support by every body and is comprised of every element that touches the holistic approach to life like recreation, proper parenting skills, good literacy and education standards, readiness for the labor market, transition services in the urban settings, support from the family and the family and very strong backing of the community. Without these support, these young aboriginal people will find it hard to deal with the daily life challenges hence living low quality lives as compared to non-aboriginal youths (HRSDC, 2009).

Action plan

The transition period for the aboriginal youths is very crucial. This is because it determines the future of a person. What a person gains in his youth will either built on his future or destroy it completely. The urban aboriginal youth face many challenges as seen above ranging from poverty, racism, alienation to poor performance academically. The only solution to these problems can be done during their transition stage as they move from the rural setting to the urban setting. The following are some of the recommended action plans:

Establishing of urban centers for the aboriginal youths.

These are important because they help the aboriginal youth to come together in a more welcoming environment that is more comfortable than when they are left alone. The place should be free from alcohol and drugs. Gallant (2003) in her report argues that every urban center should have a youth centre that provides a sense of belonging for the desolate aboriginal youths. Through these centers they are able to share their personal experiences freely and have a sense of belonging. The many social-cultural dislocations that the youth have could be counteracted by the youth centers. The aboriginal youth centers act as an alternative to street life since they provide a forum where the aboriginal youths are in a position to interact with their fellow youths, their culture, elders and be in a position to explore the many opportunities that the urban life provides for them (Gallant, 2003).

Since the youth centers for the aboriginal youth are very helpful, the federal government should provide funding for their establishment and development. It should do this in collaboration with the respective aboriginal youth representatives together with the provincial counterparts of the government and the aboriginal youth development agencies. These centers should be located in easily accessible areas. This would be a step in helping the future generation of aboriginal youth (Smith, 1999).

Establishment of urban aboriginal youth transitional programs

Many aboriginal youths move to the city seeking to advance their studies among other reasons like seeking for reemployment. With the move to the city, they are culturally dislocated, powerless and incompetent. Despite the challenges, they are determined top make out a living and better their future. With insufficient t resources and inadequate education, many turn to alternative means of earning a living (Alberta Report, 2001). Accompanied by racism and discrimination, it becomes very difficult for the aboriginal youth to handle these situations in the urban settings. Gallant argues that there is nothing that is such devastating to a young person than the racist claim. The lack of knowledge on the original aboriginal culture together with racism and discrimination are the major aboriginal youth challenges in many urban settings. The effects of all these are manifested through isolation which leads to low self esteem (Smith, 1999).

Gallant (2008) argues that there has been scanty attention paid by the government to these problems that are facing the aboriginal youth in transition. Basing on the above problems that are faced by the aboriginal youth in transition, the government should take initiatives to establish major transition services in major Canadian urban centers. This will ensure that the aboriginal migrants to the city are positively supported and proper discretion towards organizations that are appropriate in dealing with transitional issues is given. Services to be provided should include houses, training, provision of literacy skill in English, guidance and counseling among many others. The supervision of the services should be linked to the specific communities that the youth originate. The establishment of the transitional services and centers by the government should be done in collaboration with the rural communities of the respective communities (Prochner, 2004).

Creating recreation in sports and arts for the aboriginal youth

A recreational ground provides a positive release of excess energy by the youth. Through sports and recreational activities, the youth can be relieved from boredom, drug abuse and drinking. Sports are made with creativity, discipline and team work that enhances the way the youth make goals. This has far reaching results on the future performance and life of the youths. With the many aboriginal youths that migrate to the cities, given their poor backgrounds and settings, there are no recreational facilities that they can afford. The government should increase its efforts in availing recreational facilities to the aboriginal youth in transition. This will lower the vulnerability of the youths’ dysfunction both physically and socially.

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According to Gallant (2003), there is a strong relationship between the involvement in recreational activities and anti-social behavior. Lifelong bad behavior is as a result of lacking anything constructive to do. The youth gets more pressure from the peers to engage in harmful anti-social activities. The establishment of these facilities in schools is very essential because such skills are vital for equipping the students with lifelong skills like leadership skills, training and academic tutoring (Smith, 1999). Thus school attendance is mandatory. Through school programs that are fitted with recreational and sport facilities, the healthy behavior of students are enhanced.

The government should work close with other agencies in the provision of recreational and sports facilities to schools. In addition to that, in order to cater for the aboriginal youth in transition, the government should establish the recreational and sports centers together with the urban aboriginal youth centers (Gallant, 2003). The centers established by the federal government should be community based and should not have a short term perspective. The projects should be sustainable in the long run and it should be designed for the offering of instructions to the aboriginal youths accompanied by the offering of leadership and training in life skills. Through these programs, the aboriginal youths will be able to overcome racism and discrimination hence building on their self esteem. This will go along way down the life of the young aboriginal people (Alberta Report, 2001).

Health and sexuality program for aboriginal teens.

Aboriginal homes lack good quality sex education. With the parents rarely at home and not involved in their children affairs, aboriginal youths are experience high rates of pregnancy which also contributes to high school drop out rates. In addition to that, aboriginal youths experience involvement in drug and substance abuse (Alberta Report, 2001). This contributes to the high pregnancy levels and school drop out and poor academic performance. Due to this, the federal government should initiate programs that alleviate the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. This will lower the number of children borne with fatal alcohol syndrome. The government’s initiative should both be in rural and urban settings so the aboriginal children in rural and urban areas benefit. The federal government should also increase federal funding towards the initiative to reduce fetal alcohol syndrome among aboriginal youths (Alberta Report, 2001).

In addition to the above, it is observed that there is very little use of contraceptives among aboriginal youths. This can also explain the high pregnancy rates which translates to high poverty rates. All these are accompanied by high unemployment rates among aboriginal teens. The federal government through its health minister and community based organizations for aboriginal youths should implement a public awareness policy that targets aboriginal teens. This policy should target to address the problems of sexual health of aboriginal teens hence promoting sexual practices that re healthy. The federal government should also set aside sustainable funding for the programs (Gallant, 2003).

Gang life: coming up with better alternatives.

Given the poor background setting for the aboriginal youths, as they move to the urban setting they become vulnerable to anti social activities which also are criminal in nature. The youths are usually discriminated. The gangs are readily acceptable for them since they provide for them a sense of belonging and identity since the youths are desperate. Though these gangs, the youths feel greatly empowered with renewed purpose and belonging. According to Carol, (1995) the aboriginal youths that live deeper inside the city are more vulnerable to engaging in criminal activities. They are also prone to processing of justice. Therefore, gangs do provide protection for them and thus giving them safety. They accord them the basic needs (Carol, 1995).

It is recommended that the federal government while working together with the municipal and the provincial administration should help in the identification and provision o safe house for the aboriginal youths in urban centers. This will help them leave the gangs and engage in better life (Gallant, 2003).

Alcohol and Substance abuse

Many aboriginal youths in transition to urban life abuse substances like alcohol, solvents and smoking. This is one of the most risky lives. According to studies, aboriginal youth are six times riskier in abusing alcoholic substances than heir non- aboriginal counterpart. The federal government should come up with programs that help the aboriginal youth not to indulge in drug abuse. An example is the NNADAP program put in place by first nations. The program should be target all aboriginal youths both in rural and urban settings. Sustainable funding should also be provided by the federal government. In addition to that, there should be treatment centers that provide treatment for cases related to substance abuse. These centers should be age specific (Alberta Report, 2001).

Training and Employments for the Aboriginal Youth

Many aboriginal youths posses low education levels due to the poor backgrounds they come form. They rarely complete high school. With low education, many end up being jobless. Thus many aboriginal youths risk being unemployed (Smith, 1999). Being unemployed is risky for the youths as they are likely to engage in antisocial activities. The federal government should set up programs that will reduce the aboriginal youth unemployment. Given the fast population growth rate of the aboriginal people, the government should move fast in bringing Canada’s shrinking labor force to the required levels. The barriers to employment of aboriginal youths include factors like little job experience, low education levels among the aboriginal youths, lack or inappropriate skills among the youth, high transience and mobility levels amongst the aboriginal youths and poverty and discrimination (Smith, 1999).

To solve the above obstacles, the federal government should initiate employment and entrepreneurship programs for the aboriginal youths. These programs will help them develop the necessary skills, and experience fro the required jobs. All those programs that are undertaken to help alleviate the youth unemployment should have a long term perspective. Therefore, the federal government should not only initiate but sustain the programs through sustainable funding and increased human resource development. In addition to that, the partnership of transitional urban aboriginal youth and the private sector employers should be encouraged by the federal government and the stakeholders (Gallant, 2003).

Provision of professional development

Aboriginal education requires the use of professional development for it to come out successful. The aboriginal youth have suffered so much under the non-aboriginal education system. They have undergone the torture of the mind with many negative thought being implanted in their minds (Gallant, 2003). They were taught using foreign language that they do not understand well. They were alienated further from their culture and their traditions. Through this, they faced racism hence discrimination. The discrimination they faced affected their self esteem that they lost focus in life. They are still suffering from neocolonialism since their parents still believe that they are inferior to the non-aborigines. With this mentality, they are poor lacking a sense of direction in life (Tunison, 2007).

There needs to be established a special education program that caters for aboriginal children. Aboriginal youth face many challenges as they study. Coming from a poor background where parents struggle to feed ad take them to school they face a lot of hardships. The parents can’t afford better schools to take them. At the schools that they are taken, they are taught the non-aboriginal literacy where they are further alienated from their culture. As they move to urban settings, they are faced with the challenge of racism and lack of identity which leads to discrimination. Through all these tribulations, the aboriginal education is characterized high drop out rates, truancy and poor performance in academics (Kanu, 2005).

There is very little parental involvement in the education of their children. According to the Ministry Of Education (2005), parents have an important role to play in the education of their children. They assist their children in doing home work, provide them with good parenting and also get involved at school projects and trips for their children. They should help the school in the better management of their children. Aboriginal parents are too busy that they find no time to spare for their children. Since parents also advice their children and influence their future life, the youth’s from aboriginal backgrounds do not experience that. This explains the poor performance at school, poverty, truancy, involvement in gang activities and high school drop out rates. The children lack a sense of belonging (Ministry Of Education, 2005).

Since the system of education for the non-aboriginals does not favor the aboriginal children, the government should initiate the curriculum that favors the aboriginal students and culture. The government should also engage trained aboriginal teachers to teach aboriginal children. This is because they best understand the aboriginal culture and language (Gregory, et. al. 2008). This will break one of the barriers of poor performance among aboriginal children. More so, the government should develop aboriginal schools in urban areas that are exclusively for aboriginal students. This will reduce the instances if racism and discrimination hence the self esteem for the children will be raised resulting not only to better academic performance but also better future life. The government should come up with guiding and counseling programs that support secondary school going aboriginal students (Alberta Report, 2001).

The outcome of poverty in aboriginal families is poor parental responsibility with many parents not taking part in the up bringing of their children. The children, due to low self esteem indulge in many antisocial activities that ruin their future. They engage in alcohol and abuse of substances in addition to participation in criminal activities. Their parents also do not know their culture.

The future of the aboriginal people lies in the employment of professionals to come up with a system that suits them. The new system should make use of aboriginal teachers to teach aboriginal youths.


The aboriginal people are the natives of Canada. With coming of the Europeans, the aborigines were marginalized. They were imposed to foreign culture and education system that doe not value the cultural and the language of the aboriginal people. They were taught in foreign language that they did not understand. Through the non-aboriginal literacy programs, they were taught that they are inferior to Europeans. As a result they became inferior and poor. Their children performed poorly in schools.

During the transition stage where the aboriginal youths move to urban setting, they experienced many problems that range from high school drop out rates, truancy, high rates of pregnancy, racism and discrimination and involvement in antisocial behavior. All this conditions accompanied b a very low self esteem impact negatively on the aboriginal children and they end up leading a very poor lifestyle.

The federal government should engage in several activities to save the aboriginal people. It should work in collaboration with other community groups in the establishment of urban centers that care for the aboriginal youth in transition. Through the centers, the youths engage in sports and other recreational activities that will boost the self esteem of the aboriginal youth hence improving their future. It should also establish training centers and initiate awareness for the aboriginal youth in terms of drug and substance abuse, and sexual and health behavior. With these the aboriginal youth will contribute much to the labor force in Canada. All these programs that are initiated by the government should have a long term perspective otherwise, they will not be effective.


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