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New GDI Report: SUNTEP Graduates add $13 Billion to Saskatchewan

Oct 12, 2017

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By James Oloo

On September 27, 2017, Gabriel Dumont Institute released its latest research report SUNTEP: An Investment in Saskatchewan’s Prosperity at a well-attended event at GDI Publishing Department. Authored by University of Saskatchewan economist Eric Howe, the report shows that Gabriel Dumont Institute’s Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) is securing a prosperous future for Saskatchewan. “SUNTEP graduates are worth over ten million dollars each in bringing about a prosperous future for our province, literally worth more than their weight in gold. SUNTEP’s very existence helps guarantee the prosperity of our province,” Professor Howe noted.

The report points out that the benefit to Saskatchewan if the Indigenous residents of Saskatchewan alive today had the same average level of educational attainment as that of Saskatchewan’s non-Indigenous population would be $137.3 billion dollars, measured in 2017 dollars. (By comparison, in 2015—the most recent year for which we have data—provincial Gross Domestic Product of Saskatchewan, that is, the market value of everything we produce in this province was $79.4 billion).

Since holding its first graduation in 1984, SUNTEP has produced 1,238 Indigenous people with bachelor of education degrees to date. Of the 1,238 SUNTEP graduates, 223 are male and 1,015 were female, and a total of 978 have become teachers.

The report identifies the benefits of having Indigenous teachers in Saskatchewan schools. For example, Indigenous teachers present all students with a positive representation, which can be extremely valuable in a context where the media stories frequently involve the negative. Further, an economic benefit of an Indigenous teacher arises when the teacher is a role model: when Indigenous students see themselves in their teacher and decide to persevere in education.

Howe also examines the benefit to Saskatchewan if the province’s Indigenous residents had the same average level of educational attainment as that of their non-Indigenous counterparts. Computing the breakdown in the benefit by credential, the report shows that the largest payoff is for University degree, such as SUNTEP. Howe notes that the payoff to Saskatchewan of just raising the number of terminal Indigenous high school diplomas to be the same proportion as for the non-Indigenous population is $21.9 billion. This alone is equal to more than a quarter of the highest value of provincial Gross Domestic Product recorded in Saskatchewan’s history.

The report also examined education and employment gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Saskatchewan, and the benefits of bridging those gaps. Indigenous employees span every industry and occupational category in Saskatchewan. Moreover, Indigenous employment is growing at a faster rate than non-Indigenous employment. For example, between 2004/2005 and 2016/2017, the total provincial employment grew from 481,300 to 568,700, for an average increase of 1.4% per year. Métis employment increased from 19,300 to 29,000, an increase of 3.4% per year. First Nations employment increased from 10,900 to 17,700 (a 4.2% increase per year). However, while Indigenous employment is growing at a faster rate than total provincial employment, the progress is not being made fast enough as needs to be the case as Saskatchewan’s population becomes increasingly Indigenous.

As well, in some occupations, such as Skilled crafts and trades workers, the proportion of Indigenous employees (10.3%) exceeds that for non-Indigenous (8.5%). This is good news for our province that can be attributed to educational programs targeted at Indigenous students, such as those offered by Gabriel Dumont Institute, are effective.

Comparing Métis earnings to those of non-Indigenous people, note that Métis people without a high school diploma are even more marginalized—and even poorer—than their non-Indigenous counterparts without high school diploma. However, there is a point where, with education, Métis earnings catch up and surpass non-Indigenous. The earnings of Métis females with a high school diploma exceed those of similarly educated non-Indigenous females; and continue to exceed for further levels of education. Métis males, on the other hand, have to complete a post-secondary program; either university or non-university, in order to have earnings which surpass similarly educated non-Indigenous males. In fact, the highest earning person (on average) in Saskatchewan—comparing everyone whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous people—is a Métis male with a university degree.

The report shows that education is a path out of poverty for Indigenous people. And, as the Indigenous population continues to grow rapidly, the path which avoids a future of poverty for Saskatchewan is, in two words, Indigenous education.

As the report shows, Indigenous people have a greater financial incentive to embrace education than non-Indigenous people. Without an education, Indigenous people should expect to be poor, even poorer than uneducated non-Indigenous people. With an education, however, the tables are turned.

Among the speakers at the event were Metis Nation – Saskatchewan President Glen McCallum, Gabriel Dumont Institute Board and Minister of Education, Metis Nation – Saskatchewan Dr. Earl Cook, and the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan Dr. Michelle Prytula.

“This research report shows that SUNTEP has been a game changer,” said Dr. Earl Cook. “SUNTEP is a bi-partisan success story. When the program was started in 1980, there were less than 10 Indigenous teachers in Saskatchewan urban schools. To date, 1,238 Indigenous educators have graduated from SUNTEP with 978 (or 79%) working as teachers and school administrators.”

SUNTEP is offered by Gabriel Dumont Institute in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina in Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and Regina.
Full report available at https://gdins.org/about/reports/research/

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