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Aboriginal education course a key element of enhanced BEd program

Throughout its history, Queen’s University’s Faculty of Education has placed an importance on Canada’s First Nations and the latest example is the introduction of a new Aboriginal education course that is a required element of the enhanced Bachelor of Education (BEd) program.

Aboriginal Teacher Education (ATEP) and Artist in Community Education (ACE) teacher candidates learn to make traditional Anishnaabe hand drums at a special workshop. (University Communications)

With the Government of Ontario’s recent extension of Bachelor of Education programs from two terms to four terms, this provided the faculty the opportunity to better prepare teacher-candidates to teach Aboriginal topics as well as create an inclusive environment in their future classrooms, explains Peter Chin, Associate Dean Undergraduate Studies.

The move to four terms affects all Ontario universities with education programs. Queen’s is unique in offering the BEd over four successive terms on campus. The Ministry of Education also mandated a list of required features that it wanted to see in the programs. How each faculty meets these mandates is entirely up to them, Dr. Chin says.

As a result, the Queen’s Faculty of Education decided to meet the Aboriginal Education curriculum mandate by creating a 12-hour dedicated course that will be a required element for BEd students. Other universities might follow a similar path or take a different route, such as folding the element into another course.

“We’ve taken the position that we don’t want to just integrate Aboriginal education into another course. We actually want to have a standalone course,” Dr. Chin says. “What this does is it continues to re-emphasize the importance we place on Aboriginal education within our program as well as inclusive practices in general.”

[Medicine Garden]
Volunteers from the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) help create the medicine garden at Duncan McArthur Hall earlier this year. (University Communications)

From its beginning, he points out, the faculty has placed an importance on Aboriginal inclusion and education.  It has offered the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) option and the Community-based ATEP Program has been administered at sites across the province since 1991. More recently, it incorporated Aboriginal Education lessons, designed by school board Aboriginal Education consultants, into its first year Concurrent Education courses.  In addition to offering a Master of Education Aboriginal & World Indigenous Educational Studies, the faculty also offers Aboriginal Education as a field of study in its new online Professional Master of Education Program.

Beyond program offerings, there’s an Aboriginal component to the faculty’s annual opening and Remembrance Day ceremonies, there are regular drum and smudging ceremonies, as well as the ATEP Office and Library and the recently created sacred medicine garden outside Duncan McArthur Hall on West Campus.

“In our new BEd program, we’re going to demonstrate our focus on Aboriginal education by giving it the credibility and legitimacy of a standalone course. With a standalone course, you know everybody gets it, you know what the topic is, you know who is instructing it,” Dr. Chin says. “We’re elevating this because we see the importance of it, which is consistent with our other actions over the years and the importance of Aboriginal education to our faculty.”

He also points out that the four-term program also allows the faculty to allocate more credits to elements it values, such as mental health, environmental education, high school transitions and an emphasis on English language learning.