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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Viewpoints of native people on education: problems and priorities of schooling in Cat Lake, Ontario Agbo, Seth A.


Contemporary literature on Native education attributes the failure of education for Native children to the negligence of educational policy analysts to obtain grassroots understanding of Indian education from Native perspectives, and that providing successful education programs for Native students should entail an understanding of the purpose and priorities of education from the viewpoints of Native people. The premises for this study were that, first, the failure of education for Indian children was, partly, due to the failure of researchers to analyze education concepts within a framework which fully interprets Native people's perspectives about schooling. Second, that Native people are capable of acting to improve their school system. This study had a dual purpose. First, it was to examine how the present system of education provided for Native children in the Indian reserve of Cat Lake, Ontario, might have been inadequate in terms of the expectations of the Indians living in the reserve. Second, the study was to serve as a basis of helping community people to mobilize themselves for action on educational issues. The study documented what Native people perceived were the shortcomings as well as priorities for their school system, and proposed strategies for the improvement of schooling. The objective of the study was to collaborate with the people of Cat Lake to identify problems, and priorities for their school system and find strategies by which to act on both the problems and priorities for the improvement of the school system. The research strategy for this study drew on participatory research, an alternative research approach to social science and educational research. The methods of investigation included document analysis, workshops, public meetings, recorded observations in the form of field notes, and semi-structured interviews involving the use of open-ended questionnaires with fifty-eight respondents. The various sources of data and procedures employed in their analysis promoted both the verification and cross validation of the results. The researcher's position as principal of the school in Cat Lake provided deep insight into understanding, interpreting and analyzing the data for the study. The results of the study indicated that although community people perceive schooling as an institution alien to the traditions and values of Indian people, they deem it important for their children to obtain quality education and attain standards comparable to children in the mainstream Canadian society. This study showed that community people lacked understanding of the meaning of local control and the processes involved in school governance. The study also indicated that among the factors that hinder an effective provision of quality education for Native children are, the poor general social and economic environment of the Indian reserve, and attitudes of community people towards schooling. Finally, the study highlighted community people's priorities for schooling in the reserve, and strategies they suggested for their implementation. This study concluded that: (1) a two-way or bi-cultural approach to education, that is, children maintaining the Indian way of life, while at the same time being competent in literacy and numeracy skills, is a way of making education relevant to the Native child; (2) in order to enhance the quality of school programs for Native students, Indian schools should minimize their reliance on mainstream Canadian school curricular products and develop a new school concept which emphasizes the traditions and culture of Native people; (3) priorities for the education of Indian children should include a re-conceptualization of local control, the articulation of a new meaning and purpose of education, the development of a suitable curriculum, and the provision of adequate support and maintenance facilities for the school system; and (4) for local control of education to be beneficial to Native students, politicians and education policy analysts should clearly redefine objectives concerning local control and the devolution of power should necessitate the empowerment of local people to maintain control under conditions of increasing and multiplying awareness of a philosophy of education that is capable of improving the social and economic lives of Native children. I have discussed the implications for policy, practice and further studies, as well as recommendations arising from the research and concluded with a summary of the study.

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