Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, Carcross/Tagish First Nation Elder Mark Wedge (Aan Goosh oo) and Education Minister Jeanie McLean during an opening ceremony for the release of the final report from the review of inclusive and special education in the Yukon on June 1. (Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, Carcross/Tagish First Nation Elder Mark Wedge (Aan Goosh oo) and Education Minister Jeanie McLean during an opening ceremony for the release of the final report from the review of inclusive and special education in the Yukon on June 1. (Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

Report on special and inclusive education finds territory lacking in support

The report follows the 2019 auditor general’s report

An independent report on education in the Yukon backs up a previous auditor general’s report that shows the territory is failing to support students with diverse needs.

The final report of the review of inclusive and special education in the Yukon was released following a ceremony at the Haa Shagóon Hídi (Learning Centre) in Carcross.

Officials gathered and the event was livestreamed to school communities.

The independent report was completed by Dr. Nikki Yee, who began the review in 2020. Yee received feedback from 31 focus groups and 26 individual interviews and read more than 73 written submissions and 500 stories and comments in order to compile the document.

“It has been a privilege for me to connect with so many people who have an interest in inclusive and special education in Yukon,” she said in a statement. “They shared not only significant individual and systems level challenges, but also talked about some truly amazing ideas, programs, and people already in Yukon that could help create an equitable education system for diverse students with many kinds of needs.”

Yee is an educator with a doctorate in special education from the University of British Columbia. Her review included a look at both disabilities and special education, as well as the specific needs of Indigenous students in the territory.

In her report, she described a system where families are in constant competition for scarce support resources.

As a result many children are falling between the cracks and internalizing the idea that they are “stupid” or unable to learn, with a devastating impact on students’ self-esteem.

Yee also highlighted that the echoes of residential schools and colonialism were still embedded in the current system. She noted various impacts on indigenous students – from outright racism in classrooms to a lack of trust in the system.

“We have a lot of work to do together and I’m committed to that,” said Education Minister Jeanie McLean during the ceremony in Carcross.

“There are a lot of difficult truths that have been uncovered. One of the things that I saw and felt when I read the report is I could see myself in it, I could see my children in it and I could see many decades and I want you to feel safe in the circle because this is going to be the start of a new journey and I want you to know I’m going to walk with you,” she said.

Key findings

Yee included key findings in the report for moving forward.

All were in response to issues highlighted in the auditor general’s 2019 report, which accessed how well the Yukon’s department of education served First Nations students, inclusive and special education students and urban and rural communities.

The findings were:

That the vast majority of participants, including students, families and educators did not believe diverse students were being supported.

Existing supports and services were not improving access to education.

The report was unsure whether or not the system needed more financial resources.

Specialized assessments for students are needed.

Recommendations for students need to be better communicated and tracked.

Yee recommended that the government move forward to form a “committee of inquiry” that will explore solutions to the issues brought forward.

“I look forward to a future when Yukon education can be studied as an example of a locally constructed model of inclusive and special education to inspire the world,” wrote Yee in conclusion.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Education

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