New Delhi: The National Health Mission has stated that the World Health Organisation has estimated that around 63 million people are suffering from the Significant Auditory Impairment and this includes around 6.3% of the Indian population. Even with such a significant number of people dealing with hearing impairment, the Indian education system has given little emphasis on learning sign language at an early stage.
Askari Abbas, a resident of Kolkata, was a student of The Oral School for Deaf Children (OSDC). While speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Abbas said, “Being a hearing-impaired person, I used to believe that life was unfair to me and there would never be enough opportunities. Many like me have accepted that they will never fit into this society, however, education changed my life. Communication with other people was a difficult task.” Just like any other kid, he was a student at a mainstream school till class 7; however, he had difficulty understanding several concepts. It took some time for her mother to realise that OSDC would be the best school for him, and now he is a working professional.
Also, the majority of the parents do not have adequate information on sign language. They fail to realise that their children with a hearing impairment must understand the significance of learning sign language at an early stage. Pallavi Kulshrestha, the Project Planning and Management officer at Haryana Welfare Society for Person with Speech and Hearing Impairment, told this paper, “When parents go to medical practitioners, they (parents) are advised to get a hearing aid, but most of the practitioners do not advise the parents to help their children in learning sign language.” Moreover, our education system for hearing impaired children focuses on developing speech therapy, but as per the sources, only 5% of the students succeed in oral education and speech therapy. In Indian society, parents consider special education as the last option. Only a few parents introduce their children to the significance of sign language at an early stage.
Srijeeta Ghosh, a resident of Kolkata, was introduced to speech therapy at an early stage. “When I was four, I left the pre-school and joined a school, Oral School for Deaf Children, which was specialised for hearing impaired children, then I took admission in another school where I was taught in sign language. Also, I used to teach sign language to other children. I finished my 10th and 12th from the National Institute of Open Schooling,” Srijeeta told this paper. She completed a two-year course in Fashion Designing at Bhawanipore Design Academy, Kolkata, where her teachers and friends helped her to explain when she needed clarification. She also completed her internship as an Assistant Production Manager at several companies. She also learned lip-reading and has been able to communicate with everyone.
However, only a handful of students get to learn sign language at an early stage, as most parents rely on speech therapy for their hearing-impaired children. Unfortunately, many teachers, having a degree in special education, do not know sign language themselves. As a result, it affects the quality of education provided to hearing-impaired children. “A lot of changes are needed to be accommodated in the education policy for hearing impaired children. Most of the teachers, after finishing up their degree in special education, do not know how to teach hearing-impaired children as they don’t know sign language. So, once they start learning ISL or Indian Sign Language, it gets too late and as a result, it starts affecting the quality of education being provided to hearing-impaired children. Most of the hearing impaired children studying in mainstream schools mug up the subjects and ultimately lead to no result,” Pallavi said.