In Quebec, the Aboriginal high-school dropout rate for the age 20-24 cohort is 43 percent, 28 points higher than for non-Aboriginals. What can be done? Quebec Aboriginal poverty is as severe as elsewhere in Canada. And in terms of education, Quebec Aboriginal outcomes are somewhat worse than comparable Canadian Aboriginal results, themselves a very low benchmark. This Commentary examines the relationship between these troubling benchmarks – education levels and employment earnings – for Quebec Aboriginals, comparing outcomes within the province’s various Aboriginal identity groups and with the rest of Canada.
In contrast to the scarring policies of the past, the goal of education reform is not to eliminate Aboriginal cultures. On the other hand, primary/secondary education is about more than cultural transmission – its goal is to impart core competencies in reading, writing, mathematics and science, necessary knowledge if Aboriginal students are to enjoy a realistic choice as adults between participation in Canada’s urban industrial society or a rural, more collective style of life. The study makes six broad recommendations to improve educational outcomes with that goal in mind.