School test changing due to aboriginal stereotypes

SASKATOON – An achievement test used in Canadian schools is being changed after a student in Saskatoon noticed that some of the options in multiple choice questions included negative stereotypes about aboriginal people.

The exam recently given to Grade 10 students in Saskatoon public schools included two questions “where the available multiple-choice options included two incorrect answers which were negative stereotypes about aboriginal people.”

School spokesman Rod Drabble says the answers said aboriginal people have a “lack of interest and motivation” and many aboriginals are unemployed.

A student writing the Level 19 test book of the Canadian Achievement Tests, Fourth Edition, told a parent and it was brought to the attention of the school board and division administrators.

Drabble says the school system has stopped using that test until further notice and has notified the Canadian Test Centre.

David Galati, director of operations for the Canadian Test Centre, says the answers will be changed in any Level 19 test books sent out from now on.

“I was surprised and disappointed to see that our internal review of test items during the development of CAT4 did not identify these two test items and replace them before publication,” Galati said in an email.

“This is the first time anyone has brought this concern to my attention, but Level 19 is not as widely used as our other test levels.”

Galati said the fourth edition of the test was published in 2008 and was field-tested in classrooms across Canada.

It has been used by the Saskatoon public board since 2012.

Chris Scribe, director of Indian Teacher Education Program, said he remembers facing stereotypes within his curriculum when he went to school but was shocked to see that it was still being spread across the country.

“Why are questions like this included on there? Why wasn’t it a question about a First Nation doctor and the need (for more doctors) or a success story of that? What is the purpose of having it where they are talking about non-motivation and talking about unemployment and they are talking about lack of funding? It’s like, wow, this is still happening in our schools. That was the initial thought.”

Scribe said it speaks to a need across the country for more action on indigenous inclusion in the curriculum.