Reflections on School Engagement: An Eco-Systemic Review of the Cree School Board’s Experience

John Visser, Frédéric Fovet

Abstract


The parameters are readily interesting: The Cree School Board experience over the past 25 years represents one of the first occurrences worldwide of a society having globally acknowledged that a curriculum, as a whole, did not necessarily fit a specific group, rather than the individuals not performing within a curriculum. As such, this represents a characteristically eco-systemic experiment where a move has been made from the simple—and not-so-unusual observation of poor school performance from a community as a whole—to the conclusion that a curriculum was poorly matched to the group it was set to serve. This assessment has led most notably to the adoption of Cree as the language of instruction in order to increase performance. Statistics for the Cree School Board (CSB), however, are not showing convincing signs of improvement and Cree parents appear increasingly divided in their assessment of how the curriculum now serves their children. The purpose of this article is to throw some light on factors that  may explain the difficulties Cree students are facing within school in its present format. The highly topical aspect of this assessment and review is that the characteristics that supposedly make some Cree children difficult to teach in a Western style classroom are attributes often assimilated to children with Social, Emotional, and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) in mainstream schools: restlessness, inability to stay indoors, short attention span, rejection of classroom etiquette, and rules. The study suggest that, far from being distinct and dependent on variables that are unique, outcomes such as those recorded in Cree schools, highlight challenges in student engagement encountered by many school environments in the 21st century, particularly inner city schools.

            Keywords: Cree Nations; eco-systemic analysis; Native education; Social, Emotional, and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD)


Keywords


Indigenous education, Cree Nations, SEBD, inclusion, teacher education

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