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Report: First Nation schools failing

First Nation students are graduating at a much lower rate than students in provincial schools, and those that do graduate are doing so without a recognized high school diploma.

Those are just some of the findings released Thursday in a study of on-reserve schools by the Fraser Institute.

According to the right-wing think tank, too many on-reserve First Nation students graduate without a recognized high school diploma because many of those schools don't meet provincial educational standards.

The study, 'Myths and Realities of First Nations Education,' focuses on what it calls the lack of structure and other major problems with on-reserve First Nations education in Canada.

"If a First Nations kid graduates without a recognized high school diploma, it's very difficult for that kid to apply for university or get a job," says study author, Ravina Bains.

Bains, associate director of the Fraser Institute's Centre for Aboriginal Policy Studies, further states that more than 60 per cent of First Nations people aged 20 to 24 have not completed high school.

That's compared to 13 per cent of all other Canadians.

"And on-reserve school graduation rates average below 40 per cent, compared to over 75 per cent in provincial schools."

She adds per-student funding for First Nations elementary and secondary on-reserve students is equal to, or in some provinces greater than, funding for all other Canadian students.

The report further goes on to state funding for First Nations education grew from $1.3B to more than $1.5B, 'dispelling the often-repeated myth that funding growth has been capped at two per cent.'

On a per student basis in 2011-2012, average overall funding for students living on-reserve ($13,524) was greater than funding for all other Canadian students attending public schools ($11,646).

"Some First Nations groups and advocates argue for increased government funding for Aboriginal education as though that will solve the problem," says Bains.

"But, overall funding for Aboriginal education has increased substantially across Canada and the problems remain."

The report does, however, point to some positive news.

In 1998, Nova Scotia First Nations communities began to help on-reserve schools function more like provincial public schools.

In 2012-2013, the graduation rate among Mi'kmaq students in Nova Scotia was more than 87 per cent.

"If policy-makers want to help improve First Nations education across Canada, they must first face reality and not perpetuate myths.

On-reserve schools don't have the same structure and standards as other Canadian public schools, and more money does not necessarily improve student performance or graduation rates."

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