On the 12th of October 2017, five guest speakers from Wangsel Institute, Drugyel conducted a session on deaf education and inclusive education from 2 pm to 4:30 pm to the 4th year Bachelor of Primary Education students. The session was organized to fulfil the objectives of the module “Teaching Children with Special Needs”, where students were required to learn about the roles and responsibilities of Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), Principals, the process of Individualized Education Programme, Deaf Education and other topics which could be best taught by experienced teachers working in schools with SEN programme or a special school. The team was led by Mr. Dechen Tshering, Principal of the Institute, and included Ms. Chimi Zangmo, the SENCO, Ms. Sushila Gurung, SEN teacher, Ms Heather Black, AVID volunteer, and Dr. Suksiri Danthanavanich from Thailand.
Mr. Dechen started the session with a brief history of deaf education, highlighting the evolvement of sign language in France, America, Thailand and then in Bhutan. He shared that the Wangsel Institute started with two teachers; Dr. KB Mongar and Miss Pema Wangmo and three deaf students. Currently, the institute caters to ninety seven students with twenty seven teachers and twelve supporting staff. He highlighted some common causes of deafness such as genetic cases, rubella, brain injury and ear infections. He shared that the challenge of relating three dimensional languages (sign language) to two dimensional languages (written) lead to low literacy rate among the deaf people. The lack of specialized personnel in the field and not being able to fully understand how the children should be best taught were also highlighted as some of the other challenges in educating deaf students.
Ms. Sushila, talked about sign language and deaf culture. She stated that sign language is not universal and therefore it differs from country to country. A demonstration by her colleagues on how a sign for a same object or a concept can differ among different countries surprised the audience. Dr. Suksiri demonstrated how a father is signed in Thai, Ms. Heather demonstrated the same concept in Australian and Ms. Chimi did the same in Bhutanese sign language. Ms. Sushila also talked about the important components of effective communication while using sign language such as giving eye contact, touching the deaf to gain attention and facial expressions. She stressed that there is a common misconception that sign language does not have grammar structure and phonological system. The phonological system of sign language is determined by hand shape, location of the hand, movements of the sign, palm orientation and facial expression while signing.
Mrs. Heather reemphasized some communication tips such as tapping, waving and stamping, physical proximity, and avoiding wearing distracting ornaments while communicating with people who are deaf. She also highlighted the importance of reducing unnecessary noise in the environment especially if we have students using hearing aid. Throwing things to gain attention, tapping with force and walking away before the completion of conversation are some of the things that should be avoided when communicating with deaf. Answering to the question ‘if calling deaf to people who are deaf or hard of hearing is appropriate or not’ from the floor, Ms. Heather shared that to the deaf community, not being able to hear is not a disgrace but it is their identity; therefore generally deaf people do not mind being called deaf.
Ms. Chimi briefly talked about role of Principal, SENCO, SEN teacher and the process of identifying students who should have an IEP (individualized Education Plan) and the process of writing an IEP. She shared some of the criteria and forms that they use for identifying and referral of children with disabilities for Special Education. The students asked several questions and interacted with the resources persons and the session concluded at 4:20 pm with a vote of thanks by the Programme Leader. Students shared that the session was a very enriching learning experience for them.
Report compiled by
Pema Yangzom & Dawa Dukpa