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Tag Archive for: Indigenous

Improving Canadian Indigenous Student Success: Three Martin Family Initiative Projects

Of the approximately 1.5 million Indigenous People in Canada, 50 percent are under the age of 25 — they are the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the country. A real concern for Canada is the low Indigenous high school graduation rate; the non-Indigenous high school graduation rate is about 90 percent while the Indigenous rate is about 50 percent.

martin family initiative logoThe Martin Family Initiative (MFI), a charitable foundation, was established in 2008 to address this crisis. Three of MFI’s key strategies are:

Educating principals:

Thanks to the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, MFI collaborated with the University of Toronto and 13 Indigenous education experts to develop an innovative course for principals of on-reserve schools.

Three young men reading a bookParticipants learn how to ensure that teaching and learning at high standards are the first priority of every school by participating in learning experiences that develop their instructional leadership skills in order to increase levels of student achievement by developing improved teaching performance. The nine-month, 200-hour program consists of 10 modules plus a 30-hour practicum.

The feedback from participants is very positive: the learnings are unique to on-reserve schools, the course helps principals learn to focus on what is important in their schools, and it inspires them to be better school leaders.

Resources:

Closeup of someone writing in a work bookA virtual library of over 1,300 Promising Practices in Indigenous Education Website is updated monthly. Contents include curriculum, classroom practices, relevant policies, interesting initiatives and research related to successful practices in Indigenous education.

The focus areas are Kindergarten to Grade 12, Parent/Community Engagement and Early Childhood Education. Educators, researchers and others use the site to enhance learning opportunities and to improve educational success for Indigenous students

Early Literacy:

Closeup of a young child raising their handBy the age of 10, children need to read well enough to read and write what they know and think, or they risk falling behind in all areas in school. School achievement relies on the ability to read and write well; reading proficiency by age 10 is the best school-based predictor of high school graduation.

A four-year MFI pilot project showed that with effective teaching Indigenous students can excel as speakers, listeners, readers and writers in two or more languages and enjoy the associated cultural, social, educational and economic benefits.

The pilot project has been expanded and will include 20 on-reserve schools by 2020.

Three Reasons Why a Native MBA is About More Than Business

profile photo of young womanBusiness skills are certainly essential in any good business degree experience, but they alone will not create meaningful social and environmental change or provide greater economic opportunity.  Only when students possess a strong network of support, a sense of what works, and an appreciation of what doesn’t can they be powerful leaders of change.  Here are some examples:

A shared “best-practice” environment. A universal truth of our experience working with members of more than two dozen tribal communities in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship program is that there is no universal “tribal” identity.  Every tribe has its own governance structure, its own resource opportunities, its own leadership, and its own ways to doing things.  One of the most important elements of the Gonzaga MBA-AIE experience has been and continues to be the opportunity to learn how their colleagues in other tribal organizations get things done – how they move change, how they identify opportunities, how they build coalitions, and how they examine and explain results.

Tcloseup of calculator, paper clips and peno enable compassion and common understanding of challenges. Just as our program provides a pulpit for students to explore and understand what is working, similar value is found in understanding when well-meaning organizations are heading in the wrong direction.  The challenges facing tribal communities are vast, often relying on resources that are unavailable, expertise that can be difficult to muster, and a history that promotes a pessimistic outlook.  Our students benefit from the opportunity to share where things went wrong, and in doing so understand that while sometimes it might be better everywhere else, sometimes it’s not.  They learn that we all face the same challenges, challenges that call for broader intervention with policy, structure, education.

people wearing graduation caps and gownsTo create community. While a great deal of what we do in the classroom focuses on providing tools and applications, an essential byproduct of that experience is the development of a community of learners dedicated to themselves and each other.  Our 60-plus alumni stay in touch with each other – particularly with their cohorts, with whom they spend two years learning skills and gaining knowledge alongside one another.  Given the systemic nature of the problems faced by many native communities and the vast human and financial resources needed to fix them, relationships are important. One of the most powerful tools our students possess is the ability to call a friend and colleague who understands their challenge, knows their abilities, and can recommend action.

Over the past fifteen years, nearly 75 students have taken part in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship.  This program, originally created to provide opportunities to business educators in native communities and tribal colleges, has adapted over the years to focus on one of the most pressing challenges in Indian Country – the development of empowered individuals who seek change and possess the technical skills to make change sustainable and meaningful.

closeup of a 2017 graduation cap and tasselOurs is not the only program to focus specifically on the challenges facing tribal communities and native populations, and in the current environment of higher education where every degree and program must justify its unique contribution to the educational landscape, it is appropriate to ask the question why we need “native” MBA programs.  We need them because they help students and businesses thrive in Indigenous communities.