Factors of Aboriginal Students’ Academic Achievement

In 2016, Aboriginal population accounts for 4.9% of the total Canadian population, and about one quarter of the the Aboriginal people are under 14 years old (Statistic Canadian, 2019). This means that Aboriginal children will play important role in the Canadian for the future. However, according the researches, about half of the Aboriginal students dropped from high school (Maclver, 2012). The low academic achievement of aboriginal students is a big concern for the society, which is not only the academic learning but also for the employed rate. According to Statistic Canada (2018), people who graduated from high school have more chance employed than people are not graduated from high school. Therefore, academic achievement will affect people’s employed rate and family income. In order to help indigenous children to improve their future lives, they need to improve academic achievement. It needs to answer the essential questions that is why the aboriginal students’ academic achievement lower than the non-Aboriginal students, and what the educators or mainstream education curriculum can do to help Aboriginal students to be success.

There are many factors cause Aboriginal students’ academic achievement. Some are historical reasons, such as, residential school, traditional values, and Aboriginal traditional teaching and learning style; there are some social factors, such as, racism, poverty, teachers’ exceptions, and school environments ().

Residential schools were established by the Canadian government that brought indigenous children from their families, which instead of learning indigenous culture and language, these children were taught by the Euro-Chastain value by English and French (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2019; National collaborating, 2017). Although indigenous children learned the English/French and Euro-Chastain value, they had lost their culture, language, and even family connections. In addition, the school environment and working staffing did not friendly to indigenous children. The punishments and abuse caused the trauma for children who lived in residential school.

Traditional indigenous teaching style is passing knowledge from elder, usually family members, to next generational through oral or experimentally (National collaborating, 2017). After the residential school system, the education system of indigenous culture had been broken. However, the mainstream education system is controlled by the government that based on the European education structure. It has the different values, motivations, and goals of indigenous culture, so indigenous children have hard time to achieve the high academic performance and easy to dropout from schools.

The social-economic is also a reason affect Aboriginal students’ academic achievements, which children who from low income family usually have low academic achievement (whitely, 2014). The reason is that children’s mental and physical development associate with the living environment and family support (National collaborating, 2017). If children are from poverty families, their families probably do not have enough finical support for children’s education, and children may want to work instead of studying to support their family finance. Based on the research, majority Aboriginal people live in reserve areas, so there are low quality houses, problem of food safety, and less infrastructure support (National collaborating, 2017). The lower qualify live condition has the negative influence of children’s development. The communities may have less resource to provide support for children’s education.

The school environment is also an essential factor affects indigenous children’s academic achievement, which negative school environment will contribute to the low academic achievement (Barnes, 2006). The historical problems caused that Aboriginal students experience racism and stereotype in school, either from peers, teachers, or school staffs (Whitley, 2014), which are the negative experiences for students. For example, Aboriginal student usually have the label of “lazy” or “stupid” that teachers do not have the high expectation on these students. The negative experience in school will cause the absent from schools, which influence their academic achievement.

If teachers have noticed Aboriginal students’ strength and interacted with students as the positive relationship, it will affect students’ development and academic achievement (Whitley, 2014). In addition, the safe school environment will help students to share their both positive and negative experience with teachers, and teacher will have more chance to know and to help the students.

The peer relationship will also play a significant role for Aboriginal students school live both in academic achievement and self-development (Whitley, 2014). First, good peer relationship with peers means more chance to communicate with peers inside or outside of the classroom, so students easier to speak out during the group discussion. Second, good peer relationship will engage students to come to school, which they feel they are not alone or isolated from others. Third, good peer relationship will provide more support from school and have the confidence to challenge themselves.

The mainstream curriculum is based on the European values, which is different than the indigenous values and culture. Aboriginal students could not find the meaningful purpose of the curriculum and school experience. This is the huge gap between mainstream education and traditional indigenous education system, so Aboriginal students have less engagement of being at school. In addition, the traditional indigenous activity may affect children school life. For example, hunting is important part of the indigenous lives, and to keep the hurting in the morning may affect children’s school performance.

The BC new curriculum has added the Aboriginal education in the meaningful and mannerly way. This is not the only saying it, but connecting the Aboriginal perspective with the lessons to make the content meaningful for Aboriginal students, and it also provide opportunity for non-Aboriginal students to learn it.

There are many resources about reconciliation and Anti-racism for educators to use in the the classroom. However, I think to help Aboriginal students, it is much more than the resources or policy. In Hopkins’s paper (2013), he analyzed the policy of reconciliation, which colonized people need to take the responsibility for the injustices and “look backward in order to move forward” (pp 237). The government needs to accept and face their mistake, and the reconciliation is not about forget or revenge, it is about remember and respect the Aboriginal culture. Therefore, the mainstream education will play the most important role to help all students to understand the Aboriginal culture and to help Aboriginal students to success in the education system

There are some teaching strategies for teachers to support Aboriginal students to success. First, teachers should provide the positive, respect, and safety classroom environment for all students, so students are able to share their needs and experience or search help in school. Second, teachers should provide the positive feedback (Gallop, 2016). The positive feedback can give students the confidence and engagement of learning. Third, teacher should have the clear classroom expectations for students (Gallop, 2016). The clear expectations can help students to set the goal of learning. More important is that students realized that the teachers care about them, so they have the motivation to learn.


Aboriginal children’s education is huge concern in the society, and there are many factors affect the Aboriginal students’ learning outcomes. The residential school and historical problems plays an important role of influence Aboriginal education system. This is a long-time process to help Aboriginal students to adapt the mainstream education system and also to help them to make the connection with indigenous culture. Mainstream education system, communities, and the society have the responsibility to support the Indigenous children to keep their own culture, as well as learning the new curriculum to success.

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Factors of aboriginal students’ academic achievement. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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