Deaf Teaching Assistants: providing education and employment opportunities for deaf children and adults in Papua New Guinea
Light for the World Austria
For many children with disabilities, the lack of adults with disabilities in regular schools can be a barrier to their inclusion. Adults with disabilities can act as role models and may also give children with disabilities a stronger sense of belonging and of being understood. This article explains how Deaf Teaching Assistants are being developed in Papua New Guinea to help support the inclusion of deaf children in regular schools, and as a way of improving educational and employment opportunities for deaf adults.
The project, run by Callan Services, aims to enhance quality primary education and basic health care services for children with hearing impairments. One of the key elements has been the employment of 20 assistants who are deaf or hearing impaired, known as Deaf Teaching Assistants.
The Deaf Teaching Assistants’ role is part of wider efforts to build identity and promote Deaf culture, and to support 300 deaf children to be included in primary schools. The project also seeks to offer the Assistants opportunities to gain higher qualifications (with the goal of eventually becoming teachers) and to be trained in early years development. Several Deaf Teaching Assistants have already achieved entry level to higher education.
The Assistants are identified in the community. They are selected for their skills in communication and interacting within both the deaf and hearing community; and for their ability to relate to and work with young deaf children. They are also selected for their creativity, and most will have reached a basic level of primary education.
Deaf Teaching Assistants mostly receive on-the-job training from a specialist teacher in the Deaf Education Resource Unit (DERU) (separate classes attached to mainstream schools resourced by a trained teacher for deaf). They also have access to other educational opportunities and support to improve their English. Deaf Teaching Assistants have opportunities to meet each other at regional and national meetings. This chance to share experiences is an important aspect of building and strengthening the Deaf community. The Assistants also have wider roles beyond their support role in the classroom. They participate and assist in local, regional and national sports programmes, and assist in the teaching of sign language.
Through providing training in early childhood education, the project seeks to help Deaf Teaching Assistants work more effectively with young deaf children and support their transition from the DERU classes into regular classes. The training also provides them with skills to support curriculum adaptations based on individual deaf children’s needs, and to be a resource within mainstream classes.
Deaf education is relatively new in Papua New Guinea and many deaf adults have not had an opportunity to see their potential as key contributors to education nor to recognise their ability to get higher education and improved employment. The Deaf Teaching Assistant approach is providing education and employment opportunities. The Assistants also become positive role models for deaf children and their families in the community. Further, they have contributed to improvements in sign language skills in schools, among children and teachers.
The project has, in addition, enabled the development of a National Sign Language Teacher who will lead on sign language teaching. A key result of the project was the decision to further develop Papua New Guinea Sign Language, and recognition of the need for structured interpreter training and for a full review of educational approaches. The development of Papua New Guinea Sign Language is progressing with workshops across the country, and the Deaf Teaching Assistants are central in this process.
Contact: Light for the World Austria
Callan Services, Michael Lulu