First Nations students deserve to feel welcomed and supported in provincial schools, no matter where they live. In September 2022, I signed a Ministerial Order to establish standards for Education Services Agreements that will help school boards and First Nations work together when First Nations students living on-reserve choose to attend a provincial school.
The standards were developed from 2014 to 2022 with feedback from numerous partners, including First Nations, provincial school boards, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, the Alberta School Boards Association and the federal government. We shared several drafts of the Education Services Agreement standards with these partners and asked for their perspective on how the standards could be strengthened to benefit students.
This valuable input was used to finalize the standards, which will guide the development of new principles-based Education Services Agreements. The standards will promote dialogue and collaboration between First Nations, school boards, public charter schools and the federal government, while also ensuring a strong focus on learning needs, culture, language, identity and unique circumstances.
Many existing Education Services Agreements are decades old and don’t address individual circumstances, such as a student’s specific learning needs or life in a rural, remote area. Strengthened Education Services Agreements will help establish ongoing communication and stronger relationships between First Nations and provincial school authorities and enhance education opportunities for First Nations students. They provide clarity and help foster discussion while also remaining non-prescriptive to ensure agreements can be built according to local needs.
We are committed to open dialogue and will continue to gather feedback on the standards as they are put into practice. The standards have a built-in review period to ensure they are working for parties as intended. Three years after the standards come into effect, the Alberta government will conduct a review, including another round of input from First Nations and school boards and other partners and stakeholders. Feedback during the review period will help determine the standards’ effectiveness, inform any needed changes and guide future program and policy decisions.
Alberta’s government will continue to work with First Nations and education partners to advance reconciliation and empower Indigenous students. I look forward to seeing the impact these standards will have in helping First Nations students living on-reserve who choose to access the provincial education system feel welcomed and supported.