Starting in the 2023/2024 school year, high school students in British Columbia will be expected to complete Indigenous-focused coursework as part of their 80 credit high school graduation requirement. The provincial government announced this requirement as part of their work in “Indigenous-specific anti-racism and discrimination strategy.”
Students will be required to complete four credits worth of Indigenous-focused coursework. They can pick out of the 10 provincial courses and 18 First Nation Language courses.
The B.C. Ministry of Education worked in partnership with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) to implement the new requirement for graduation. Mary Mollineaux, First Nations Education Steering Committee K-12 policy manager, says it’s a requirement that advocates have been wanting for a long time.
According to Mollineaux, the FNESC has been working with the B.C. Ministry of Education over the past year to curate a plan for the Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and creating course work with a focus on Indigenous Peoples was one of the action plans.
Along with that, Mollineaux says the FNESC is also creating a First Nations anti-racism strategy to “address Indigenous specific racism within First Nation schools.”
“It’s important for all students to be learning about Indigenous Peoples to increase their understanding of … perspectives and cultures of Indigenous Peoples in B.C.,” Mollineaux says, adding that she thinks the education would double as an effective anti-racism strategy.
The “B.C First Peoples” course is one of the classes the province provided before the new implementation. Mollineaux says despite the province offering an Indigenous Peoples based course, only five per cent of students were actually taking it.
This is despite the province having over 90 per cent of students graduating with more than the 80 credit minimum requirement. The new implementation will ensure students are taking the course and learning from it.
Mollineaux says there is hope that students who take the course gain a better understanding and appreciation for the place they live and an acknowledgement of the First Peoples who have lived here for thousands of years.
“That will give them a better understanding of what it means to be a citizen in B.C., and just understanding more of our shared history in B.C.,” Mollineaux says.
The province is using the two school years before the set implementation date to gather feedback from the public, look into the best way to execute the new requirement, and prepare schools with the capacity to teach the courses.
Throughout March and April, education partners plan to have consultations with Indigenous communities on the new graduation requirement, and the feedback from the meeting will be shared with the public.
The province expects to have their approach for the new graduation requirement by Aug. 22.
“I think people have been developing their understanding of truth and reconciliation. We’re in the beginning stages, and I think it’s really exciting to think of how this is one of the steps to transforming the education system to really respect the diverse cultures and histories of Indigenous Peoples in B.C.,” Mollineaux says.
“I think that this is one of the ways that B.C. has been a leader in reconciliation in Canada.”