Trent University education program hopes to boost number of aboriginal teachers

TORONTO -- An Ontario university will offer a new program next fall that it hopes will help boost aboriginal numbers among teachers.

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Cathy Bruce, interim dean of education at Trent University, says the school will offer an indigenous bachelor of education degree program.

The new program is partly in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report last summer that called on all levels of government to change policies to repair problems caused by residential schools.

The report also recommended that students be taught about the history and current plight of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

Bruce says the school is still accepting applications and hopes to have 15 students, all who self-identify as aboriginal, start the first year of the program in September.

She says the new program is working closely with the university's indigenous studies program and will offer courses such as an Ojibwa language course and math course specifically related to indigenous culture.

"We need to increase the actual number of indigenous teachers in Ontario schools so that students see those role models and students see that they too can become a teacher," Bruce said.

Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., offers a similar program that allows graduates to teach children up to grade 6, whereas future Trent graduates will be able to teach through high school.

Some of the professors in the new program will be aboriginal, Bruce said.

"And if this program grows as we hope and believe it will, we can hire more aboriginal instructors," she said.

A report released last summer said public school teachers in Ontario didn't receive enough training on aboriginal issues.

Only 29 per cent of elementary schools and 47 per cent of secondary schools offer training on aboriginal issues to teachers, said a report by People for Education, a research and advocacy group.

Annie Kidder, the group's executive director, called on the provincial government to implement immediate changes to add more professional development for teachers about issues facing aboriginal people in Canada.



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