Beginning in 2023-2024, all students at the York Region District School Board will take Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices as their required Grade 11 English credit.
The course is designed to expand students’ understandings of Indigenous peoples, cultures and contemporary realities trough contemporary literature.
"The thing we point out to teachers is that you don't have to teach the culture, the authors teach the culture," said Andrew McConnell, coordinator of First Nations, Métis and Inuit education.
Students will examine the continuing impact of past social, cultural, economic, political, and legal trends and developments on First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals and communities, according to the Ontario secondary curriculum resources site.
“We are excited to be making this important change,” said Heather Sears, coordinating superintendent of education, curriculum and instructional services and continuing education. “Students will continue to gain the important skills taught through Grade 11 English, while learning more about Indigenous perspectives, about Canada, the importance of truth and reconciliation and the relevance of treaty relationships.”
The course is an extension of the Grade 10 history course but it's not a course on history or the residential school system. History will come up but it's not going to be "dwelt upon," McConnell said. Rather, it's a literature course through the eyes of indigenous authors.
"Indigenous people are way more than what the Canadian government did. Residential schools is Canadian history, it's not Indigenous history. . . it certainly doesn't define us. . . The texts are all really good, there's a huge variety of texts out there now by Indigenous authors."
The idea to introduce the course began in 2019, according to McConnell, because some boards across the province started teaching it.
The course is already being offered as an option or replacement for Grade 11 English at many secondary schools in the board. It will be offered in all schools in 2022-2023.
York Region District School Board is the third largest school district in Ontario with more than 128,000 students in 180 elementary schools and 33 secondary schools. York Region students consistently perform above average in provincial testing and the board is one of the top achievers in Ontario. Visit the York Region District School Board to learn more.