New grad requirement ensures students expand their knowledge about Indigenous perspectives, histories, cultures

THE Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), is implementing a new graduation requirement.

Expected to take effect in the 2023-24 school year, this requirement will ensure all secondary students complete Indigenous-focused coursework before they graduate from B.C.’s K-12 education system.

“We are deeply committed to lasting and meaningful reconciliation in B.C. – guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while working co-operatively with Indigenous Peoples across the province to address the knowledge gaps in our K-12 curriculum,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education, on Friday.

“This new requirement will deepen students’ understanding of the experiences, cultures, histories and knowledges of Indigenous Peoples. This will help us to understand the truths of our shared history, while also building knowledge so all students feel a sense of responsibility for our collective future.”

Tyrone McNeil, President, FNESC, said: “For many years, FNESC, First Nations and our partners in the public education system have advocated for this important change to the B.C. graduation program. Building awareness and understanding of First Peoples’ perspectives, cultures and histories among all B.C. students will serve as an important step toward reconciliation and an effective strategy to combat racism within the province to the benefit of all British Columbians.”

On March 7, the Ministry of Education will launch an online public engagement to gain feedback on the proposed approach to implementing the new graduation requirement, including what related information and resources students, parents and schools may need. The ministry will also consult with Indigenous communities and K-12 partners throughout the spring. FNESC will facilitate information sharing with First Nations. The proposed model would allow students to meet the new requirement through a variety of existing and new course options.

Under the proposed model, students who are currently in Grade 10 would be the first group to complete this new requirement, starting in September 2023. The new requirement will apply to all students in B.C. public, independent and offshore schools. B.C. is the first Canadian province/jurisdiction to implement this type of requirement.

The new Indigenous-focused course requirement is one of the actions identified in B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Draft Action Plan, as part of a broader Indigenous-specific anti-racism and discrimination strategy for the K-12 system, on which First Nations were consulted in 2021.

Stephanie Higginson, President, BC School Trustees Association, said: “To support meaningful truth and reconciliation, it is critical that B.C. students graduate with an understanding of the ancient history of the lands their schools are situated upon. B.C.’s curriculum offers many Indigenous-focused courses with rich content and boards of education have created unique courses that give students the chance to strengthen ties to Indigenous communities. This change to the graduation requirement will help further deepen and expand this necessary work.”

Teri Mooring, President, BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), said: “The introduction of a First Peoples course requirement is an incredibly important milestone on our shared journey of truth and reconciliation, and something the BCTF has advocated strongly for over many years. It will be important that this policy change be supported by a focused effort to recruit more Indigenous teachers to ensure these truths can be taught from a place of lived experience wherever possible throughout B.C.’s public education system.”

Quick Facts

* The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #62 includes a call to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

* In November 2019, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally adopt the internationally recognized standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through legislation with the passing of the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

* B.C.’s redesigned K-12 curriculum was fully implemented in 2019, and explores Indigenous worldviews, perspectives, cultures and histories across multiple grade levels and a range of subject areas.

* While more than 90% of B.C. students graduate with more than the required number of credits (80) for a B.C. Dogwood Diploma, only about 5% have completed any of the provincial Indigenous or First Peoples grades 10-12 courses.

Learn More:

The online engagement website will be available here on Monday, March 7: