A recent change to B.C.’s education system will see students completing coursework focused on the history, culture, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples before graduation. The BC Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), looks to begin the new requirement for graduation at the beginning of the 2023/24 school year.

The new requirement is an effort to ensure Indigenous representation in the education system, a priority set out by the provincial government’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in November 2019. The Province said that it engaged, and continues to engage, First Nations and education stakeholders on the change in curriculum.

“We are deeply committed to lasting and meaningful reconciliation in B.C. – guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while working cooperatively with Indigenous Peoples across the province to address the knowledge gaps in our K-12 curriculum,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education.

“This new requirement will deepen students’ understanding of the experiences, cultures, histories and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples. This will help us to understand the truths of our shared history, while also building knowledge so all students feel a sense of responsibility for our collective future.”

Students in B.C. will be able to meet the new requirement thought both new and existing courses, all designed to educate pupils on Indigenous history and culture, while working as part of a broader Indigenous-specific anti-racism and discrimination strategy. The strategy, specifically designed to reduce bias and racism in the K-12 public school system, was created by the provincial government through collaboration with local First Nations in 2021.

Changes to the curriculum also directly address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #62, which calls on governments to make a curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement. Teachers in B.C. are supportive of the change, with the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) also encouraging the government to focus on
recruiting a higher number of Indigenous teachers.

“The introduction of a First Peoples course requirement is an incredibly important milestone on our shared journey of truth and reconciliation, and something the BCTF has advocated strongly for over many years. It will be important that this policy change be supported by a focused effort to recruit more Indigenous teachers to ensure truths can be taught from a place of lived experience wherever possible throughout B.C.’s public education system,” said Teri Mooring, president of the BCTF.

The implementation timeline for the new Indigenous-focused graduation requirement is expected to be announced in late August of 2022. For more information, visit: www.fnesc.ca.