B.C. high school students will soon have to complete Indigenousfocused coursework before graduating.

The Ministry of Education announced Friday that school districts will begin implementing the new requirement in the 2023-24 school year.

“This new requirement will deepen students’ understanding of the experiences, cultures, histories and knowledges of Indigenous Peoples. This will help us to understand the truths of our shared history, while also building knowledge so all students feel a sense of responsibility for our collective future,” said Jennifer Whiteside, minister of education.

What the course load will look like is unknown at this time, but the ministry says “the proposed model would allow students to meet the new requirement through a variety of existing and new course options.”

The ministry will be consulting with Indigenous communities and district partners throughout the spring, and the FNESC will facilitate information sharing with First Nations.

The first group to complete the new requirement will be students currently in Grade 10. The new requirement will apply to all students in B.C. public, independent and offshore schools.

“For many years, FNESC, First Nations and our partners in the public education system have advocated for this important change to the B.C. graduation program,” said Tyrone McNeil, president of the FNESC, in a release.

“Building awareness and understanding of First Peoples’ perspectives, cultures and histories among all B.C. students will serve as an important step toward reconciliation and an effective strategy to combat racism within the province to the benefit of all British Columbians.”

B.C. is the first Canadian province/jurisdiction to implement this type of requirement, said the ministry.

Over 90 per cent of B.C. students graduate with more than the required number of credits, however, only around five per cent have completed any of the Indigenous courses currently available for Grades 10 through 12.

A public engagement was launched Monday to gain feedback on the ministry’s proposed approach to the new requirement.

The new requirement is being put into motion in collaboration with the First Nations Education Steering Committee.