The British Columbia government has proposed changes to improve education outcomes for First Nations and other Indigenous students attending provincial public schools.

According to a news release, the proposed amendments to the School Act are intended to support better education outcomes for First Nations and other Indigenous students attending provincial public schools by taking a distinctions-based approach.

These changes to the School Act will require all boards to establish an Indigenous education council (IEC) in their school district to ensure Indigenous people have input into decisions affecting Indigenous students.

The Indigenous education council will support boards in the provision of ongoing and equitable education as well as support services for Indigenous students – which includes Indigenous perspectives for the benefit of all students, advice on and approving the board’s spending plans and reports on Indigenous education-targeted funds.

In the release, the Province is proposing amendments to the School Act to fulfill commitments  in the Declaration Act Action Plan and the BC Tripartite Education Agreement (BCTEA).

Rachna Singh, minister of education and child care, said in the release that these changes acknowledge the importance of First Nations involvement in education of Indigenous students.

“Part of reconciliation is to listen and make the changes needed to ensure First Nations students succeed in school,” she added.

According to the release, the proposed legislation will ensure that First Nations and Treaty First Nations have the option to apply a model local education agreement (LEA) with boards of education.

The LEAs govern the purchase of educational services by First Nations from boards of education, setting out processes for information sharing, collaboration and decision-making. These agreements can also establish a foundation for positive relationships between school boards and First Nations to support improved student outcomes and engage on broader issues.

Tyrone McNeil, president at First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), said in the release that Indigenous students face systemic barriers that result in unfair outcomes in the K-12 system, so these changes are welcomed.

“First Nations control of First Nations education underpins the First Nation education system we have spent three decades building in B.C.,” he said. “This work includes ensuring the provincial public school system is responsive to, and respects and incorporates the perspectives of, First Nations to better support this student population in a meaningful and appropriate way.”