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Canada's Aboriginal Education Panel in Place

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The country’s blue-ribbon panel on education, announced late last year, has been chosen, according to the ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

Officially titled the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education, the group will develop ways to boost student outcomes, improve the framework for oversight and clarify accountability for First Nation elementary and secondary education, INAC said, with legislation being among the options to be studied.

The measure was announced in December 2010 and heralded by aboriginal leaders as progress in the face of years of high dropout rates and aboriginal disenfranchisement in the educational system.

David Hughes, president and CEO of Pathways to Education Canada, will chair the panel. Pathways to Education is a national charity “with a proven track record of lowering high school dropout rates and increasing access to post-secondary education among disadvantaged youth in Canada,” INAC said in a bio.

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Caroline Krause, “a nationally recognized aboriginal educator” whose areas of expertise are second language instruction, diversity, social justice and aboriginal education, INAC said.

George Lafond, of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, is “an experienced business and social development advisor known for successfully leading strategic initiatives requiring First Nations engagement,” INAC said. “He has worked successfully with First Nation bands, national, regional and local governments, universities, corporations, business associations and organizations.”

The panel was chosen by the Canadian government in conjunction with the Assembly of First Nations.

"Our shared goal in this work is to dialogue with First Nations and other key players to advance a plan to implement sustainable solutions that put the success of First Nation children front and center,” said AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “We all agree that this is not another study. We have had enough studies. Now is our time to set our path forward and to act in the best interests of our students. We need to address the issues as soon as possible including early engagement of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education with the National Panel."

The panel’s mandate is to work with First Nations and other partners “to strengthen and improve First Nation education,” INAC stated. The three-month series of eight regional and one national roundtable sessions will be held from April to July and be supplemented with online interaction via a website. The panel will issue two reports, one midway through the process and the other at the end, in mid-2011, presenting them to INAC Minister John Duncan and Atleo.