Aboriginal Adult Education: Finding the Equinox

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Aboriginal Adult Education: Finding the Equinox
An exploration of the identified barriers to Aboriginal
participation in education and strategies to create equity.

Rhonda McCorriston
Student Number 6102539
October 13, 2005

Introduction
Aboriginal adult education participation is significantly lower than those of non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Literacy, high school completion, training, and post secondary education engagement in the Aboriginal adult community is increasing but statistics indicate that Aboriginal people are completing high school and post secondary education at rates as low as one third of that of non-Aboriginal people. The barriers Aboriginal people are faced with when returning to school have been studied by a number of researchers over the past two decades. By exploring the research over the past twenty years about Aboriginal adult education non-completion and examining the divide between societal or systems barriers and individual or personal barriers, recommended strategies to overcome barriers and the best practices to create equity in access to education and completion can be identified and implemented. Like the equinox, the differences between Aboriginal adult success in education and training and non-Aboriginal success in education and training is like night and day. The balance between these differences can benefit Aboriginal adult learners by seeing the barriers as opportunities to support Aboriginal individual families and communities to share responsibility to create a future in education where Aboriginal education is respected and individuals are successful. Aboriginal people, whether they reside on or off reserve, are First Nation, Métis, Innu, or some combination of all of these have more obstacles than other Canadian counterparts. They may be Traditional and Spiritual, Christian, Atheist or any other religious affiliation and they may come from large families or simply be a single parent with a child. Undoubtedly though, the majority of Aboriginal people experience the highest unemployment rate and the lowest educational attainment level whether they are youth or adults and whether they reside in remote areas or in the cities. Literature Review

Through exploring previous research that identified barrier to education and training, the solutions to retention and successful of Aboriginal adult learners can be accessed. Aboriginal political organizations, educational institutions and government have struggled with accessibility issues, not just in Canada but in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. (Beetson, 1997). Malatest, 2002, identified the barriers as distrust, lack of preparation, feelings of social discrimination and isolation, unemployment and poverty, lack of respect for cultural differences, and significant family demands. In his study “Best Practices in Increasing Aboriginal Postsecondary Enrolment Rates” ( CMEC, 2002) with key stakeholders and a review of the literature on Aboriginal post secondary education, Malatest’s barriers create an image that barriers are created within the individual, family, and community by pointing to individual’s feelings of distrust and isolation. Malatest groups unemployment and poverty together as a barrier as though there was a relationship between these variables, and culture and family as negative aspects that create barriers for individuals. Later, Malatest refined his definition of barriers to Aboriginal post secondary success as “historical barriers, social barriers, geographic and demographic barriers, cultural barriers, and individual/personal barriers.” ( Malatest, 2004) While these barriers suggested there was some influence of the system on an individual’s potential to succeed, Malatest insinuates that the majority of responsibility for lack of success resides with the individual. Poor self-concept and motivation were central themes of the literature review...
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