B.C. auditor says Indigenous grad rate highest ever but education gaps exist

VICTORIA — Graduation rates for Indigenous students are rising in British Columbia, but closing the education outcome gaps that still exist requires more attention, says auditor general Carol Bellringer.

An audit report Tuesday found the percentage of Indigenous students graduating from B.C. public high schools hit its highest level ever last year at 70 per cent. During the same period, 86 per cent of non-Indigenous students graduated from Grade 12.

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"Overall, while there has been improvement, the system is still not supporting Indigenous students to have the same success that non-Indigenous students enjoy," Bellringer said during a conference call with reporters. "Indigenous students on average are still not doing as well."

Bellringer said the audit is an update from a 2015 report that called on the Education Ministry to address differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in reading, writing and math assessments, graduation rates and feelings of safety at schools.

The 34-page report says that despite posting the highest graduation rate ever "there is still a 16 per cent gap between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students."

It also says "Indigenous students are still more likely than non-Indigenous students to report not feeling safe in school, and to report higher rates of feeling bullied, teased and picked on."

The audit makes 11 recommendations to the Education Ministry, including more collaboration between education officials and Indigenous leaders to develop strategies to close the outcome gap for Indigenous students.

"That's the key to the final solution, if you will, to the root cause and without that kind of a strategy piece, you're really just trying (to fix) parts and not looking at it holistically," Bellringer said.

The Education Ministry says in a response to the report that much progress needs to be made, but the results have been compelling since 2013-2014 when the Indigenous graduation rate was 62 per cent.

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