A Review of FNMI Education in Ontario
By: Spencer Burton, Louise Yeon, Graeme Shaw, and Chris Bannon
Our group sought to discover more about the trends in education surrounding the topic of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as it is currently taught in the Ontario school system. Through our research we have recognized the importance of educating students about FNMI people, culture, and tradition. We found this topic to be very important to intermediate students, as they are in a period of their lives in which the formation of positive self-identity and self-esteem are at the forefront. We conducted research, distributed surveys, and interviewed education professionals to discover more about what is being taught in schools about FNMI culture, how it is being taught, what practices are being used in schools, and what else needs to be done to accurately and respectfully educate the next generation of Canadians about this topic.
In an attempt to find the answers to our questions, we created a documentary-style video about the current level of FNMI education in Ontario’s public school system. We selected a number of different individuals that we interviewed. This provided us with a holistic representation of our research. We spoke with students, asking what they knew about FNMI people and how they learned the information they knew. These student recordings demonstrated possible gaps in our students’ education on FNMI issues. We found student responses focused on cultural artifacts that were historically stereotypical of FNMI people and that students did not know about current FNMI issues. Secondly, we spoke with current teachers in the field about whether or not they teach about FNMI in their practice and how they communicate this information. From these written responses we found that teachers were divided evenly on whether the Ontario curriculum allows sufficient space for teaching current FNMI issues in the classroom. Lastly, we spoke with members of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa regarding what they are doing to adequately prepare their Teacher Candidates to confidently incorporate FNMI education in their practice. These responses were optimistic about the initiatives being undertaken at the University of Ottawa, but also noted that there is still lots that can be done and lots that needs to be done for FNMI education.
In order to create a successful video we gathered information from the Museum of History located in Ottawa. We participated in the construction of a birch bark canoe on the University of Ottawa’s campus in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action with an Elder from Mattawa. Members of our group also participated in a Indigenizing and Decolonizing the Academy. All of this information proved to be valuable in learning about the topic, and the testimony that followed allowed us to complete the video and develop a greater understanding of FNMI in Ontario Education.
To strengthen our knowledge, we administered a survey to teachers to see how FNMI students and culture is represented in their classrooms and how it could be improved. We have compared teacher answers to students’ knowledge in regards to how FNMI are represented in their school, and what students know about indigenous culture. In order to educate students the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa is trying to shift away from the colonial approach to education and allow student teacher to decolonize education.
From gathering recordings from students, teachers and faculty members, we found that there is still a significant need for further education on current FNMI issues in Ontario schools, and in the University of Ottawa Teacher Education Program.