Policy Review

Much of the discussion in the course I am currently completing focuses on Aboriginal education policy in the K-12 education systems. Because of my current work in the post-secondary education system, I am particularly interested in policy discussions that address the need for reform in that system.

I found a 2013 graduate thesis that speaks to this issue, entitled Aboriginal Postsecondary Education in Canada and the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development: A Critical Policy Analysis by Summer Thorpe of the University of Western Ontario. The author addressed the following questions:

1) During the 2006 meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, what policy positions were taken, and by which individuals and groups, with respect to the definition of the policy problem of Aboriginal PSE in Canada? What policy positions were taken by the Committee in its summative report, No Higher Priority,

and in the Harper government’s response to the Committee’s report?

2) How were the specific positions and supporting evidence presented during the meetings framed and utilized by the Committee in its summative report, No Higher Priority: Aboriginal post-secondary education in Canada? Whose positions were heard, and why? (p1-2)

The conclusion that the author reaches is that the government of the day, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

"established itself as the legitimate vehicle for carrying a policy through all stages of the policy cycle from agenda setting to policy formulation to decision making to policy evaluation to policy implementation" (p84).

The author identifies a problem with this structure, and I would tend to agree. Any policy needs a fresh set of eyes at some of the key stages, particularly in the evaluation stage. This is particularly so in the area of Aboriginal education policy. This discussion by the author reminds me of an observation made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when it stated that Canadian society must not only learn about the Residential School system, but it must learn from that failed system. Aboriginal education policy cannot be directed top-down from any federal or provincial governing body - it must have the ongoing input of Aboriginal peoples through all stages.

Read Summer Thorpe's graduate thesis here...