Decentralization of First Nations Education in Canada: perspectives on ideals and realities of Indian control of Indian education
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AbstractIncl. abstract and bibl.
Fuelled by the concept of self-determination, efforts to improve schooling under the banner of decentralization are taking hold in First Nations communities throughout Canada. Proponents of decentralization hold the perception that decentralized systems are more likely to improve education than centralized systems. But is there a chance that local control can improve First Nations education? From the point of view of the realization of the decentralization values, the outcome is uncertain at best and gloomy at worst. To the extent that First Nations are alert to the emerging educational needs and problems and strong enough to mobilize First Nations resources on their behalf, we may entertain a cautious optimism on the resolution of some of the manifold contradictions of decentralization. I contend that unless there is a genuine devolution that entails the empowerment of First Nations communities to provide an education that is specifically suited to each community, schools for Aboriginal children will remain mediocre in quality. If decentralization is to sustain its momentum and advance productively in coming years, at least it should meet three conditions. First, certain constraints or contradictions internal to decentralization will have to be resolved. Second, Aboriginal scholars and First Nations school authorities need to employ appropriate change strategies by providing a framework for local control, and finally, First Nations communities and federal authorities need to find the key symbolic and structural characteristics of decentralizing First Nations schools.