OTTAWA - Younger aboriginals are more educated than their elders but still trail non-aboriginal Canadians when it comes to post-secondary education, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.
The latest release of the 2011 National Household Survey found nearly half of aboriginal Canadians between 25 and 64 years of age have some post-secondary education, but that compares to two-thirds of non-aboriginal Canadians. The biggest difference is in university graduates.
While about one in five aboriginals and non-aboriginals in that age group had a college diploma, fewer than one in 10 aboriginals had a university degree compared to more than one in four non-aboriginal Canadians.
In Manitoba, slightly more than one-third of aboriginals 25 to 64 years old have some post-secondary education, while nearly two thirds of non-aboriginals do. Among First Nations in Manitoba, those with a post-secondary education is fewer than one in four.
"The gap is not surprising," said James Wilson, Manitoba Treaty Commissioner and an expert in aboriginal education. "It’s a reminder we’ve got a long ways to go and we better get started because it’s not going to change itself."
Wilson is among those advocating for major strengthening to aboriginal education, particularly on reserve, with more funding per student needed and First Nations school boards that can provide curriculum sharing, set standards for teacher qualifications and minimum number of teaching days, and establish better supports for students such as computer access and libraries.
He said it has to start at the elementary and high school level. The 2011 National Household Survey shows 57.4 per cent of First Nations in Manitoba between 20 and 24 have not finished high school, compared to just 10.2 per cent of non-aboriginal Manitobans in that age group.
The federal government is trying to work with First Nations to create a First Nations Education Act but many chiefs are not supportive believing the government is trying to ram more policy at them without proper consultation. It remains to be seen when such legislation may finally be introduced.
The survey did show that younger aboriginals, particularly women, are more educated than their elders. More than 55 per cent of aboriginal women between 35 and 44 have a post-secondary education, compared to 46.5 per cent of aboriginal women between 55 and 64. There was virtually no difference among men in those age groups.
Wilson said the figures for women are promising but more research needs to be done to show why the numbers and improved and how to get them moving up among all aboriginal groups.
Off-reserve First Nations and non-status Indians were also showing higher educational attainment than those on reserve.
Métis Canadians were the most educated among aboriginal groups, with 54.8 per cent reporting post-secondary education compared to 44.8 per cent of First Nations and 35.6 per cent of Inuit.
Because of the changes in methodology for the National Household Survey in 2011 compared to the old long form census it is difficult to compare the 2011 NHS results with the 2006 long-form census.