Analyst Touts Charter Schools As Possible Option For First Nations

Media Appearances, Aboriginal Futures, Frontier Centre

A unique type of public school, found only in Alberta, is being held up as a model for other First Nations to follow.

Joseph Quesnel, an analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, says Saskatchewan's western neighbor is the only province in the country to currently allow charter schools.

Quesnel explains the schools don't charge fees, but have more leeway to develop instructional techniques that are found outside the standard curriculum.

He says they take into account the various circumstances found in the local community, and adapt their approaches accordingly:

"There is more freedom in terms of what they can teach and their approach. You can kind of be experimental in terms of what you teach . . . the content, what languages you're teaching. It can be geared towards the local First Nations culture and the language."

Quesnel says one of the schools is located near the Paul First Nation and incorporates both cultural and spiritual focus into its teachings.

He says 40 out of 50 states in the U.S. have charter schools, and they have been found to work very well among disadvantaged segments of the population.

Quesnel says the schools can sometimes be at odds with other schools who lose enrolment — but he argues the focus shouldn't be on that, but rather, student outcomes.

He also says Aboriginal parents should be in the driver's seat when it comes to their children's education.

Quesnel believes that if a First Nation is located near a provincial school — and the parent wants their child to go there — Ottawa, working with the community, should make that a reality.

He says this could be accomplished through a voucher-type system.

Through it, money would flow through the family — as opposed to the band or education authority as is the current practice.

He adds there are other neglected options out there, but there is no legislative framework to allow them.