The perceptions of parents toward the La Loche project
McNally, Anna Patricia
In recent years, throughout Canada, there has been an emphasis on the need for increased community involvement beyond locally elected representatives in the process of public education. For example, Saskatchewan, in revisions of the 'School Act' in 1978, provided for greater public representation in school affairs through the formation of Local Advisory Committees to school boards. In Manitoba, the Department of Education set up a grant system as an incentive to the formation of parent groups. The implication seems to be that representative democracy is not sufficient for the governance of public education. Much of the research on schooling during the 1960's suggests that the home, rather than the school, is the main determinant of educational progress (Thompson, 1984). Typical, and perhaps best known, of the studies from this period is Coleman (1966). He concludes that educational attainment is largely independent of the schooling that a child receives. Research in cross cultural education has been disheartening. The failure of native students in the Canadian school system has been well documented. The Hawthorn Report (1967), which was published over fifteen years ago, stated that among Canadian Indian students enrolled in schools across Canada, the drop-out rate was ninety-four percent between grades one and twelve. In a similar study, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians (1973}, reported an even higher drop-out rate among treaty Indians of ninety-six per cent by the grade twelve level. In a more recent study (CEA, 1984), native students finishing grade twelve represented only twenty-five per cent of the national average. In Northern Saskatchewan, the Report of the Minister of Northern Saskatchewan on Education (1980}, cited that over seventy per cent of northern students do not complete high school. However, native education has undergone significant changes during the last decade. There is a growing desire by native groups to gain more control and involvement over the education of their children (NIB, 1972). Beyond question, a new era in Indian education has been launched with the publication of the paper, Indian Control of Indian Education in 1972 by the National Indian Brotherhood and the acceptance by the Federal Government in 1973 of the basic goals expressed in it. A major policy change in Indian Education administration has occurred. Native people can control their education and administer their schools. The new mentality is that education can be given based on native values and that native culture can be maintained with the help of the schools (CEA, 1984}. Similarly, the provinces have also taken measures to ensure local community participation in education. Native culture and language have a place in the school curriculum. In Saskatchewan, the Community Education Branch was established in 1980 in response to native educational and socio-economic needs. It has responsibilities for inner-city and native education in Saskatchewan. Its major functions are in policy analysis, development and implementation of program, native curriculum development as well as research and evaluation studies (CEA, 1984). The Community School concept is not a recent phenomenon in education. Particularly in North America, "the school has had strong roots in local community concerns and forging links between popular education and the resolution of social problems has its own honourable tradition in Canada" (Hay, 1981, p. 51). As early as 1942, a one-room school was built in La Loche, Sas-katchewan "with relief labour...this school is classified as a community day school.... The building and equipment are in the hands of the local community and the building is on government property" (Piercy, 1944, p. 59). In 1973, the Department of Northern Saskatchewan favored the position of building a high school in La Loche because "local involvement is critical to the success of high schools in the north.... Community schools can respond to the local factors of the area when developing new programs (DNS Records, 1973).