On May 8, over 40 people from throughout the region and beyond met to discuss the state of education on the west coast and to begin to envision future directions. Educators, administrators, parents, teachers, and students, from Ahousaht to Macoah and all points in between, as well as from Vancouver Island University and North Island College, gathered at Marina West in Tofino for a day-long Regional Learning Forum organized by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust (CBT).
After a welcome by Chief Moses Martin of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and a round of introductions, the group reviewed some regional statistics related to education. Given that statistics lack context, this presentation spurred a lot of discussion from the cultural relevance of foundation skills assessment tests to the challenges of tracking attendance and graduation rates.
Participants at the learning forum were encouraged by the strong involvement of communities and organizations from throughout the region. Discussions were honest, open, and sometimes challenging, as we discussed the many facets of education, from the impacts of the residential school system to challenges around housing and seasonal-or under-employment to the limited ways in which we currently measure educational “success.” As attendees shared information about their educational programs and initiatives, their successes and their challenges, it was clear that through collaboration our efforts could be magnified.
To this end, the forum ended with some concrete next steps. The first is for the CBT to convene a West Coast Learning Council with the goal of shaping ideas, energy, and resources into regional actions. (An excellent model for the education council is the Coastal Family Resources Coalition, a group of people serving children and families on the west coast. Together, this group coordinates programs and services, advocates
for resources, and is an excellent venue for communication amongst service providers.) Another practical suggestion was an education listserv to be managed by the CBT, which will create a means of easily sharing education opportunities across the region. Lastly, the group decided to meet again before the end of the school year with a focus on specific shared projects.
If you are interested in learning more about the West Coast Learning Council or would like to add your name to the listserv, please contact the CBT at 250-725-2219.