Members of the Cowichan Tribes voted 74 percent in favor of a new education agreement with the federal government that will allow the community to manage its own education.

The agreement will cover two existing Cowichan Tribes schools – a Kindergarten to Grade 4 elementary school which is extended to Grade 7 and a secondary school for Grades 8 to 12 which offers the standard BC Dogwood Certificate of Completion after l ‘Graduation.

Cowichan Tribes is one of 13 First Nations in British Columbia that have negotiated with the federal government over education authority, and the fourth to reach an agreement after the Lil’wat Nation near Mount Currie, the Seabird Island Band near Agassiz and the ʔaq’am, a community near Cranbrook that is part of the Ktunaxa Nation.

Cowichan Tribes Elementary School, which is moving to an immersion program for the Hul’qumi’num language, currently has 111 students, while the high school has 18, said Education negotiator Stephanie Atleo. for Cowichan Tribes.

Atleo said the immersion program is modeled after a similar initiative at the Lauwelnew Tribal School of the Tsartlip First Nation on the Saanich Peninsula.

Nothing will change for members of the Cowichan Tribes who attend schools in the Cowichan Valley School District, she said.

“Our children have the right to go to our schools or to go off reserve in the public or private,” Atleo said. “Our support for these students remains the same. “

She said the Cowichan Valley School District has made an effort to include First Nations elements in its schools.

“They work very hard to implement the culture and the language in their program,” said Atleo.

She said she hoped the relationship that had developed with the school district could lead to aspects of the Cowichan Tribes program being used in the public system.

Tribal schools will continue to follow the provincial curriculum “for now,” Atleo said.

Later, the First Nations that have an agreement with the federal government will come together and determine the standards of the curriculum, she said. “Then we will implement this in our community, specific to our own culture and language. “

Teachers at Cowichan Tribes schools are currently required to be certified and have a degree in education, which will continue until Cowichan Tribes has its own system in place, Atleo said.

Each community will decide what qualifications and education they want their teachers to teach in their schools, she said.

“Where it becomes important to us is the culture and language teachers,” said Atleo. “We have a lot of teachers in our community who do not have the diploma, who we can qualify as culture and language teachers to be in class with our children. “

She said negotiations with the federal government started in 2006 and she had been involved for two and a half years.

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