UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"How are we doing?" Exploring aboriginal representation in texts and aboriginal programs in Surrey secondary schools Shiu, Daniel Pui-Yin


In its annual report, "How Are We Doing?", British Columbia's Ministry of Education assesses Aboriginal students' participation and graduation rates, both of which have been consistently below those of non-Aboriginal students. In addressing the question, "How are we doing?", this thesis examines the visual images and representations of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia's secondary Social Studies textbooks as well as the Aboriginal programs offered in the Surrey School District. The implications affect both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students as the study hopes to encourage and improve cross-cultural responsiveness between and among them and to promote public discourse in the education for and of Aboriginal peoples. Negative portrayals and representations of Aboriginal peoples were common in textbooks of the past as documented by various studies. In reviewing the Surrey School District's currently recommended Social Studies textbooks, four main concerns continue to exist and persist: Aboriginal peoples continue to be marginalized, essentialized, seen as a problem, and decontextualized. However, one of the ministry's approved courses, BC First Nations Studies 12, attempts to address these inequities. Its recommended textbook is based on Aboriginal knowledge and epistemology, empowering and giving voice to Aboriginal peoples. Through the interviews of eight educators who assist Aboriginal students in the Surrey School District, this study offers some of their insights to improve student "success". Aboriginal students need to accept and embrace their identity, not only to build their self-esteem but also to honour their own cultures. Educators need to redefine "success" beyond academic achievement to include Aboriginal knowledge and epistemology within their teaching and evaluating practices and become more cognizant of and sensitive to the challenges and triumphs of their students, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Universities need to re-address the training of future educators to include Aboriginal issues in order for them to gain greater historical understanding and, in turn, empathy and compassion. These practical initiatives reflect the progress and movement in addressing the challenges and hopes of Aboriginal peoples in their journey toward real self-determination and decolonization.

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