ULaval: House of Knowledge, a unique teaching model in Quebec

A new model of university education is about to see the light of day in Quebec. Last December, the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) and Laval University signed an agreement to create a House of Knowledge: a model developed by and for Aboriginal people.

“FNEC chose Laval University to support this project. We offer our expertise in higher education to help them develop university-level programs that are better suited to the realities of the local population,” explains Katia Bergeron, the University’s vice chancellor for education and student affairs and head of the health department. Laval is home to approximately 400 self-proclaimed First Nations students today.

The future center will increase the presence and success of Aboriginal students at the university. In 2019, they accounted for less than 1% of the province’s university student population, while indigenous communities accounted for 2.3% of Quebec’s population in the 2016 census, according to a report by the inter-university cooperation office.

A first in Quebec

For Senator Michèle Audette, Senior Adviser for Reconciliation and Indigenous Education at Laval University, the project fulfills the wish of her mother (who is Innu) and many parents and ancestors. “Some institutions in Canada, notably the First Nations University of Canada, have sprung up in Saskatchewan, but that forces us to travel for higher education. In Quebec, in our region, we have the right to this and we decided to make this dream come true! he says.

At the post-secondary level, Odanak in the Center-du-Quebec region of the province has the Kiuna Institute, developed by and for First Nations. In 2021, CEPN’s General Assembly asked its general manager, Denis Gros-Louis, to reflect on the vision for the next level. The organization, which received two million dollars over five years from the Ministry of Higher Education to develop its business plan, worked with sociologist Isabelle Picard to envision how to build a program tailored to Quebec communities. It is the umbrella of “First Nations”, but they have different realities and problems depending on their geographical location, Katia Bergeron emphasizes.

Another project aligned with the House of Knowledge is well advanced at Université Laval: the latter plans to build on-campus housing adapted for indigenous students with the Regrouping Real Estate Company of Quebec Native Friendship Centers. “They have a different profile than other average students. Most of them already have an average of one to three children,” says Denis Gros-Louis.

Inclusive project

Laval University puts its resources at the service of the Maison des savoirs project to play a facilitating role, but Cathia Bergeron invites other university institutions to contribute. “The idea is to create rich programming that really meets the needs,” he says.

Open collaboration to several players in the Quebec university network will allow them to offer training as close as possible to Aboriginal communities. Denis Gros-Louis is in discussions with other institutions invited to join the project management committee. “We want to engage Quebec universities in working together to promote the success of our First Nations students. I am waiting for written confirmations, but our work has led to great enthusiasm and understanding of needs.” There is still a long way to go, as the approach to be developed must be approved by the Ministry of Higher Education, but the CEO intends to accept the first groups of students within three to four years.

“We are forced to study philosophers of other countries, when in CEGEP and in the university we have philosophers, as well as astronauts, oral history and incredibly rich science. Today, wonderful things are happening in our communities and regions in our nations, and we have not highlighted it enough,” emphasizes Michel Audette. By drawing on the languages, cultures and perspectives of these First Peoples who possess authentic knowledge, the House of Knowledge aims to attract talent and ensure a better future for the next generation.

This special content is produced by the Special Publications team Be forced, about marketing. Compilation of Be forced did not participate.

To see in the video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *