"Who we are as learners" - Macleans.ca

“Who we are as learners”

Natives more likely to volunteer, learn informally


A new report dispels stereotypes about how Canadian natives learn. The report, by the Canadian Council on Learning, suggests that First Nations, Inuit and Métis have higher rates of informal learning. “By moving beyond the all-too-familiar storyline of poor academic performance, it has given us a fresh, more balanced take on who we are as learners,” said Métis National Council president Clément Chartier. One key finding of the report was that 70 per cent of First Nations adults volunteered in their communities, versus 46 per cent for non-aboriginals. Another is that 31 per cent of aboriginal children who live off-reserves participate in out-of-school social clubs or groups, compared with 21 percent of non-aboriginal children. The report, The State of Aboriginal
Learning in Canada: A Holistic Approach to Measuring Success, claims to have used a “ground-breaking” new method to measure native success.


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“Who we are as learners”

  1. I remember a story from my Metis grandfather (who spent his summers visiting his Sarcee grandmother) about a native farmer who watched his son drive into a ditch without stopping him. I could definitely see how that kind of approach would not prepare somebody for the contemporary classroom (but probably would prepare somebody for everyday life). I found the education system rather poor at dealing with different learning styles in general.

    I can think of other factors that may play a role as well. Europeans tend to associate speaking quickly with intelligence. This will not work inter-culturally. I recall planning a debate event on Native issues, where we expected many speakers would be Native Canadians. We were warned ahead of time (by the organization we were coordinating with) that we should allow extra time for speeches from the floor. The reasons why soon became apparent. Native cultures value wisdom and thoughtfulness more than quick responses. As a result, many Natives (particularly the elders) speak slowly and contemplatively.

    Indeed, I think there are many ways Europeans can learn from Natives… of course Natives will let us drive our truck into a ditch before they tell us what we are doing wrong.

  2. While I don't dispute the learning cultures in different cultures are different, I think that this is another case of social scientists not understanding their input data.

    There is very little economic activity on native reserves, so to make a community function at all, you of course are going to have to rely on volunteer labour. As well, the extra 10% of students of aboriginal descent being involved in after-school programs could be because their parents off-reserve are probably working low end jobs that require evening hours.