PUBLIC Partners: This Back to School Season, Let’s Level the Playing Field for Indigenous Students

Last week marked the first day back to school for many postsecondary students across Canada. Fall is typically a busy time for students (and their parents), deciding what courses to take, buying books, school supplies and getting their new dorms in order. Sound familiar?

Canadians are proud of having one of the best education systems in the world. We have the highest proportion of college and university graduates in the OECD, with nearly two-thirds of adults in Canada completing postsecondary education. We also know that education is an essential stepping stone to future success, not only for the individual, but for our communities and our society as a whole. Studies show that in Canada, higher education is linked to higher salaries and lower levels of unemployment, almost regardless of subject.

However, educational outcomes are not the same across the board. Outcomes for Indigenous peoples are far below our national average. This gap that exists in part because of the significant barriers to education that Indigenous peoples face, such as limited and restrictive funding, lack of adequate support systems and geography. While there may be a popular misconception that all Indigenous peoples get free postsecondary education, this simply isn’t the case. Inuit, Métis and non-status First Nations do not receive any government funding for postsecondary education beyond what every other Canadian receives. Not only that, they receive significantly less funding than other students do in younger years.

Knowing that education is a central driver of positive change, why wouldn’t we want to improve the lives of so many individuals, their families and communities? Don’t you want to live in a country where all students are afforded the same opportunity to pursue postsecondary education — regardless of their background?

This is not just an equality issue either, it’s also a major economic one. Knowing how important education is for individual and societal betterment, why wouldn’t we want to afford the fastest growing segment of our population their own opportunity to succeed? The Centre for the Study of Living Standards estimates that closing the education gap for Indigenous students would cumulatively increase Canadian GDP by $261 billion by 2031. The Centre also estimates that greater achievement in higher education for Indigenous peoples would increase their annual income by $11,236 by the same year.

This fall, PUBLIC is proud to be working with Indspire to launch the #SoaringFuture campaign.

Indspire is a national Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada as a whole. Indspire is the single largest funder of Indigenous education outside the federal government and to date has provided over $12 million in funding through scholarships, awards and bursaries.

The #SoaringFuture campaign asks people to make a commitment to support equal access to education for Indigenous youth. We encourage you to make your commitment today at soaringfuture.ca and share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, tagging @Indspire #SoaringFuture #EqualEducation #IndigenousEducationMatters.

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