Indian control of Indian education continues to be the ultimate goal in the provision of education for First Nations children in Canada.
Paula Collier is education policy analyst with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). She explained the concept of Indian control of Indian education was one put forward in the 1984 document Tradition in Education, published by the National Indian Brotherhood, now the AFN.
"It is a report, we very much follow the recommendations and the guidance in it, and it speaks to Indian control of Indian education. So if you're looking for a catch phrase, there it is, and that's what we need," Collier said. "To improve the quality of our education, we need control over it. Because currently there is Indian education by non-Indians, and that's extremely problematic."
The AFN, Collier explained, has two organizations dealing with education, the Chiefs Committee on Education, and the National Indian Education Council. One of the areas both have identified as a priority for the AFN is special education.
"First Nations special education has been identified as a key priority area. So what we're looking at is developing a national First Nations special education policy so that we can ensure that we will have support for the ever-increasing need for local community programs and services," Collier said. "So this work is ongoing. There's a committee formed, of course, a working group on special education."
Another area the AFN is working on is post-secondary education.
"We're just in the process of finalizing a draft for the national post-secondary education review. And it makes recommendations concerning the policies that govern post-secondary education, policies developed and implemented by DIAND," Collier said.
Collier expects the review won't be ready for release to the public until the fall, after it receives ratification by First Nations at the communtiy level.
Another initiative in the works regarding post-secondary education is the formation of an association of First Nations higher and adult education institutes.
According to Collier, the AFN is assisting in the coordination of the national association of Aboriginal controlled post-secondary institutes. The association had its first meeting in Winnipeg in March, and is still in the early stages of formation, Collier said.
"And what we're trying to do, it's not just a clearing house, it's more of brokering of courses, exchanging information, liaising with other regions," Collier said of the fledgling association. "We're looking at very important issues, such as accreditation. Because what happens right now is that, even though a First Nations controlled, Aboriginal controlled post-secondary education institute offers valuable, quality programming, it's not accredited. So what we have to do is piggy-back on mainstream institutions to get that accreditation."
"I think the bottom line for everything that we do here at the AFN is that it has to be driven from the grassroots level. And that's what we promote. That's where we get our mandate. We're mandated by the chiefs and assembly. So what the community tells us, that's what we advocate, and that's what we do, because we're a politicial organization," Collier said.