Getting First Nations Kids Through High School:
A Challenge That Impacts All Canadians
First Nations education has been called a national disgrace. The high school dropout rate is six times higher for Canadian First Nations youth (61%) than for non-aboriginal youth (9.5%). This has staggering repercussions—including a $170 billion loss to the Canadian economy.
The median income of First Nations people in Canada is $19,000/year
Canada’s employers cite a lack of skilled workers as their biggest barrier to being competitive. High school completion, says the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is the minimum level of education required for employment, and there is an economic cost to all Canadians when a significant number of individuals don’t finish high school.*
The current 39% high school completion rate among First Nations young adults between 20-24 years of age across Canada is strikingly equivalent to the percentage of First Nations living in Edmonton who report mid-to high-range income.
- According to the Statistics Canada Centre of Living Standards, if First Nations kids achieved the same level of education as non-Aboriginal kids, more than $170 billion could be added to the economy.**
- The First Nations youth population is growing at three times the national average. This growth will be especially felt in the Prairie Provinces, where the First Nations are concentrated. The First Nations will make up 12.7% of the Canadian labour force growth between 2006 and 2026.**
- The Chiefs Assembly on Education found that the First Nations high school dropout rate (61%) is six times higher than among non-First-Nations students (9.5%).**
- Edmonton, the city with the second largest concentration of Aboriginal people in Canada, found that although only 14.2% of its First Nations population was unemployed, 47.3% reported incomes in the low range.***
As the First Nations continue to grow in proportion to the rest of Canada’s population, getting First Nations students through high school becomes even more economically important.
Presently, a First Nations youth is more likely to end up in jail than to graduate high school
* The Canadian Chamber of Commerce & Connect! Branche! Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal People in Canada’s Workforce, December 2013.
** Robert Laboucane, Canada’s Aboriginal Education Crisis, 2010.
*** Jacueline M. Quinless. Urban Aboriginal Population: A Statistical Profile of Aboriginal Peoples Living in the City of Edmonton, October 2009.