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3.3 Education

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The Deaf Community in Australia strongly believes that Deaf people have a right to quality education delivered through natural and accessible sign languages.  However, this rarely happens.  Too often, the focus of the education system is on teaching deaf children to speak, at the expense of their holistic education, and the role natural sign language could play in providing equity of access to both academic and social learning is mostly severely undervalued or ignored.  This is exacerbated by a lack of deaf teaching staff to provide the insight of lived experience and, crucially, role models for deaf children.

The other fundamental issue is the principle of ‘inclusive’ education being mis-applied to deaf children. This principle assumes all disabled children will benefit from being educated in mainstream settings.  This assumption is highly problematic for deaf children, for several reasons.

The main challenges deaf children face every day is access to information and communication in both the classroom and, crucially, the playground.  When deaf children are split up into mainstream schools, this access is very difficult to deliver.  The children often experience social isolation, and the scarce resources available for ensuring equitable communication access in the classroom, whether through Auslan interpreting or other means, are inefficiently divided across a multitude of locations trying to support individual deaf children.  This means a deaf child might receive such communication support for only a small fraction of their schooling hours per week.

The education system for deaf people is complicated by variations across States and locations in policies, approaches, expertise, and resources.  The accommodations, assessments, and support for deaf children are often dependent on the ability of individual teaching professionals to explore and modify pedagogic strategies to fit both the deaf child and the whole classroom/school.

The challenges continue past schooling into tertiary and vocational education.  Institutions can be reluctant to provide resources for comprehensive Auslan interpreting, and even when they do, suitably qualified interpreters capable of translating complex academic content or terminology are in short supply.  Even when interpreting is provided for lectures, when availability is constrained it is often the opportunities for bi-directional communication, such as tutorials or practical classes, that are sacrificed, denying the Deaf student the opportunity to fully participate in these activities.  Other measures that can support deaf students in tertiary and vocational education include providing notetakers for lectures, and captioning and/or transcripts for online or other audio content.  These measures also can be hit and miss in many institutions.

Deaf Australia is committed to advocate for reforms to the education system at all stages to achieve better outcomes for deaf children in both educational attainment and life-time well-being.  There are downloadables for you to use to evaluate educational approaches in your area, and to advocate for the aspirational bar to be lifted higher for deaf education in Australia.

Visual description

Deaf interpreter has white curly hair and is wearing a dark long-sleeved shirt. She is signing in a professional and informative manner towards the camera.

Resources

Fill out the form below to access the resource downloads.

Checklists:

  • AIDE Education Checklist PDF
  • AIDE Education Checklist Word document

Guidelines:

  • AIDE Education Guideline PDF
  • AIDE Education Guideline Word document

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