Indigenous education in Ontario
Learn about the support for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students.
On this page Skip this page navigation
We are committed to working with Indigenous partners and the education sector to improve access to education for Indigenous students in Ontario and support First Nation, Métis and Inuit student achievement and well-being. This includes:
- closing the achievement gap between Indigenous students and all students
- increasing every student’s knowledge and awareness of Indigenous histories, cultures, perspectives and contributions
Supporting Indigenous education in schools and school boards
Indigenous education leads
Every school board must have a full-time position dedicated to supporting Indigenous education in school boards. Leads work closely with senior board administration, including the superintendent responsible for Indigenous education, school board staff and Indigenous Education Councils. The leads support:
- improved Indigenous student achievement and well-being
- enhanced knowledge and awareness about First Nation, Métis and Inuit cultures, histories and perspectives for all students
Indigenous Education Councils (IECs)
The IECs guide school boards and schools in building stronger relationships with communities, sharing information, identifying promising practices and enhancing collaborative work to support First Nation, Métis and Inuit student achievement and well-being. All school boards must have formal structures such as IECs to support Indigenous education in school boards.
Contact your school board to learn about your local Indigenous Education Council.
Support for students
Indigenous Graduation Coach Program
Some school boards have Indigenous graduation coaches to help Indigenous students obtain an Ontario Secondary School Diploma and successfully transition into postsecondary education, training or labour market opportunities.
This program is a flexible, culturally sound program that allows boards to build a supportive process for Indigenous students to succeed in school.
Contact your school to see if an Indigneous graduation coach is available through your school board.
Alternative Secondary School Program within Indigenous Friendship Centres
In partnership with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, local Friendship Centres and school boards, the Alternative Secondary School Program offers culturally-relevant education programming and learning supports for Indigenous students working toward graduation. The program focuses on:
- Indigenous approaches and ways of knowing
- land-based learning
- connection to community
- access to Indigenous knowledge keepers and elders
The program follows a trauma-informed education model that puts well-being and holistic approaches to education at the centre of learning.
Contact your school board or local Indigenous Friendship Centre to see if the program is available in your area.
Voluntary and confidential self-identification
You have the right to voluntarily and confidentially self-identify as First Nation, Métis and/or Inuit at your school or your student’s school if you are:
- a parent and/or guardian of an Indigenous student
- and Indigenous student and you are 18 years or older
Schools, school boards and the Ministry of Education use this information to better understand how to target funding and programs to support Indigenous student well-being and success.
Contact your school if you would like to learn more about voluntary, confidential Indigenous student self-identification.
Guide to develop a policy for Indigenous student self-identification
For information on how school boards can develop a voluntary, confidential Indigenous student self-identification policy, visit the guide to developing policies for Indigenous student self-identification page.
First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework
The First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework was released in 2007 and outlined our approach to supporting First Nation, Métis and Inuit learners in Ontario. The framework identified two primary challenges to be addressed by 2016:
- to improve achievement among First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students
- to close the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students
There are three progress reports based on ten performance measures. Starting in 2007, we published a progress report every three years until 2018.
Master Education Agreement
In August 2017, the Minister of Education joined participating First Nations in signing the Master Education Agreement. The historic agreement describes the relationship between the Anishinabek Education System and Ontario’s provincially funded education system and sets out commitments between the parties to support:
- the transition of students between Anishinabek First Nations’ schools and schools in the provincially-funded education system
- advancement of Anishinabek language and culture and the knowledge of Anishinabek First Nations’ histories, perspectives and contributions within Anishinabek First Nations’ schools and provincially funded schools
- engagement and participation of students, parents, families and communities to realize the goal of improved student achievement and well-being
Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO)
In 2009, Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which made a commitment to ongoing collaboration aimed at improving educational outcomes for Métis students in the province. The memorandum supports collaborative relationships between Métis communities, school boards and education partners. This includes recognizing and preserving the distinct history, identity and culture of the Métis people and their contributions to Ontario. On December 15, 2015, the MNO signed a new MOU with the Ministry of Education.
Read the memorandum of understanding. (PDF, 486 Kb)
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)
On April 9, 2013, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), Canada and Ontario signed a historic MOU (PDF, 158 Kb) on First Nation education that made a commitment to working together to improve educational outcomes for First Nation students in First Nation-operated and provincially funded schools. This was the first tripartite education agreement to be signed in Ontario. Key priority areas of the memorandum of understanding include:
- student support services
- curriculum enhancements
- governance and administration
- human resources
- parental participation
Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians
On February 27, 2017, Canada, Ontario and the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians signed an MOU on First Nation Education – the second tripartite education agreement signed in Ontario – through the Education Partnership Program. Key priority areas of the memorandum of understanding include:
- language and culture
- relationship building
- Student transitions
Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3)
On May 14, 2021, Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3), Canada and Ontario signed an MOU on First Nation education through the Education Partnerships Program. The MOU focuses on priority areas identified with Grand Council Treaty #3 and with the Federal Government to improve educational outcomes for Grand Council Treaty #3 learners, such as:
- Early learning
- Culturally appropriate teaching and learning resources
- Professional development
- Supporting partnerships and relationship-building though the Reciprocal Education Approach and other processes
Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI)
On November 27, 2017, the Ministry of Education formalized its working relationship with Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI) through a memorandum of understanding – the first of its kind between the province and the Inuit community. The memorandum supports:
- collaborative relationships between Inuit communities, school boards and education partners to promote student success
- the inclusion of Inuit culture, values and traditions in the development of provincial education initiatives
Read the memorandum of understanding (PDF, 1.04 Mb).
Inuit capacity building in school boards
The ministry provides Inuit capacity building funding to TI to supports the success and well-being of Inuit learners through increasing access to language classes and resources that support cultural safety and integrate Inuit culture into daily classroom activities. This program aims to increase equity when students enter the school system, and support improved retention, credit accumulation and graduation rates.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
On May 30, 2016, Ontario released The Journey Together – Ontario's Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. As part of Ontario’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Report, we made the following new commitments.
Support for Indigenous languages
Language is the foundation of culture. Indigenous peoples have a strong tradition of oral histories that must be supported by a new respect for, and understanding of, Indigenous languages. Part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports calls for protecting the right to Indigenous languages, including the teaching of Indigenous languages as credit courses. The Ministry of Education is committed to developing and implementing programs and services that are supportive and reflective of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures and languages.
“Anishinaabemodaa” – “Let’s speak Ojibwe” Initiative
Since the 2016-17 fiscal year, the ministry has provided funding to support the community-led “Anishinaabemodaa” – “Let’s speak Ojibwe” Initiative (formerly the Ojibwe Language Revitalization Strategy), in partnership with the Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB), the Seven Generations Education Institute and SayITFirst. The aim of the Initiative is to develop pathways for Ojibwe speakers to become Early Childhood Education workers and certified classroom teachers. To date, the initiative has helped to sustain and expand language learning in ten First Nation communities. The initiative has also supported the significant expansion of Ojibwe language learners and developed pathways for RRDSB students to pursue language learning in postsecondary and receive preferred entrance to the Lakehead Faculty of Education.
We work with Indigenous partners to enhance the Ontario curriculum and support mandatory learning about:
- residential schools
- the legacy of colonialism
- the rights and responsibilities we all have to each other as treaty people
Changes to curriula
In response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action 62 and 63, we implemented the revised Social Studies, Grades 1 to 6; History and Geography, Grades 7 and 8 curriculum and the Canadian and World Studies Grades 9 and 10 curriculum.
These curricula revisions made learning about First Nation, Métis, and Inuit perspectives, cultures, contributions and histories a mandatory component of every student’s education in Grades 4 to 8 and Grade 10.
The revised curriculum is the result of collaboration with Indigenous teachers, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Métis Senators, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit community representatives, residential school survivors, Indigenous partners, Minister’s Student Advisory Council and other education stakeholders.
In May 2019, we issued the revised Grades 9 to 12 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Studies curriculum that students started learning in September 2019. This curriculum increases students’ learning about First Nation, Métis, and Inuit perspectives, cultures, contributions, and histories in areas such as art, literature, law, humanities, politics and history.
We have also designated the first week of November as Treaties Recognition Week to promote public education and awareness about treaties and treaty relationships.
Read the curriculum
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit Studies, Grades 9-12, curriculum
- Native Languages Grades 1-8 and Grades 9-12 curriculum
- Social Studies, Grades 1-6; History and Geography, Grades 7-8 curriculum
- Canadian Word Studies, Grades 9-10, curriculum (PDF, 4.99 Mb)
Curriculum resources about treaties
- Scope and sequence related to treaties and land claims (elementary) (PDF, 868 Kb)
- Instructional activities for Treaties Recognition Week: educator's guide for history, Grades 7 and 8 (PDF, 1.23 Mb)
- Accommodations for delivery in the virtual classroom (PDF, 96 Kb)
- Scope and sequence related to treaties and land claims (secondary) (PDF, 867 Kb)
- Instructional activities for Treaties Recognition Week: educator's guide for history and civics and citizenship, Grade 10 (PDF, 1.26 Mb)
- Accommodations for delivery in the virtual classroom (PDF, 96 Kb)
Reciprocal Education Approach
Through the Reciprocal Education Approach (REA), when requirements are met, school boards are required to:
- Admit First Nation students who live on-reserve to a school of the school board
- Provide funding support for students who would ordinarily be eligible to be pupils of the board to attend a First Nation school
For school board obligations to be initiated, certain eligibility criteria must be met and First Nations and students must submit written notice to the school of the school board the student intends to register at or is currently registered at.
Parents, guardians, students and/or Another Authorized Persons are advised to work with their Band, Tribal Council, Education Authority or the federal government, to complete the written notice form.
Using the reciprocal education approach, First Nations and school boards do not need to negotiate and enter into an agreement for the base tuition fee.
Learn more about the Reciprocal Education Approach, including the eligibility requirements for First Nations and students, and a fact sheet about how students can participate.
The Reciprocal Education Approach (REA) was designed in collaboration with First Nation partners and education stakeholders to improve access to education, strengthen parent and guardian choice and improve First Nation student transitions between provincially funded and First Nation-operated or federally-operated schools in Ontario.
Recognition of First Nation schools
We are committed to supporting First Nation students and recognizing the unique nature of First Nation and federally operated schools to create opportunities for First Nation students to access programs and services to support their success and well-being.
We will build on collaboration between the provincially funded education system and First Nation-operated and Federally funded schools to further strengthen these relationships, build greater capacity and provide supports, for example, to increase access to professional development, COVID‑19 supports and learning resources.