Currently in the 1995 Education Act, it states that “compulsory school age in Saskatchewan is age seven to 15 years inclusive. Persons in charge of a student (e.g. parent or guardian) must ensure the student’s regular attendance in a provincial school if the student is of compulsory school age (Walk, Chomos, Burgess, 2009, p.4)”. It is important to understand that regular attendance is mandated in the province of Saskatchewan and has pre-determined consequences for failure to comply with this responsibility. Challenges in dealing with student attendance are in direct relation to a priority of publicly funded schools and needs to be addressed in a manner that with a high level of importance. Through statistics, research and studies this paper will look at the rationale of a specific attendance challenges, relation to student outcomes, stakeholder interests, ethical and legal issues and finally strategies to improve the situation.
With the media and communities having an increased interest in large scale assessment and quantitative comparison of schools and divisions, schools are being deemed successes or failures based on a select number of variables. This is also being applied to unique diversity situations found in our province. One of the major variables is student attendance. It may seem irrelevant that attendance be used in making comparisons as it is required by law but the effects of low attendance rates is vast. It not only impacts individual student learning but also the school as a community. Direct relations are being made from low attendance rates to a school providing a lower quality of education. However this paper will focus not on the comparisons of schools regarding attendance rate but at the basic level of students. The current challenge that teachers, schools and communities are facing in Saskatchewan is the low attendance rates being produced by the fastest growing population - Aboriginal youth.
Released in the 2008 Saskatchewan Education Indicators Report, “[The] Aboriginal segment of the population has been growing proportionally over the last 10 years, up from 9.9 percent in 1991 and 13.3 percent in 2001. . . The Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan is young and growing in proportion to the total population, particularly in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 age cohort. In 2006, Aboriginal peoples represented 29 percent of the pre-school-aged population and about 25 percent of the school-aged population (“Saskatchewan Indicators Report”, 2009).” These statistics provide a quick summary of the demographics of the future classroom. Aboriginal students will become the majority of students learning in publicly funded schools, thus there will no longer be excuses to avoid teaching a curriculum enriched with their culture. These youth will play a vital role as the future of our province and that means their educational needs must be met. If they are continually ignored, attendance rates may continue to be lower...