A constant struggle : a history of deaf education in New South Wales since World War II
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Despite developments in legislation, policy, advocacy and technology, all designed to improve deaf education and its delivery, Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing and hearing-impaired (DdHHHI) students still face a raft of issues from their early years of education through secondary high school. This thesis argues that, while there have been improvements, that situation continues due largely to fragmentation within the DdHHHI movement based on competing advocation for differing approaches to deaf education. This has occurred in the context of growing corporatisation and privatisation. The main area of difference has centered on how young DdHHHI people should learn, be it informal learning – in the home, the playground and the like – or formal learning – such as in the classroom. Should they be taught using oralism – teaching via spoken language – or manualism – teaching via sign language? The debate between oralism and manualism has had a significant impact on the type of education delivered to DdHHHI students in New South Wales (NSW). Deaf education has generally been affected by the choice of speech or sign, each being a communication mode that encapsulates its own unique languages. Since the 1960s, this situation has become more contested and increasingly pronounced. Different models of disability have come and gone. The findings of various inquiries and reports have stimulated various exchanges, though they have been implemented either in an ad hoc manner or not at all. New technologies have been introduced, heralding different methods of educating DdHHHI students with particular regard to their individual abilities and to their differing degrees of hearing loss. The debate further deepened with the introduction of bilingualism as another educational method in the early 1990s. Disability discrimination legislation and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities served to further drive the deaf education debate. These required countries to take measures to facilitate the learning of sign language and ensure the education of DdHHHI children be delivered in the most appropriate languages, modes and means of communication for the individual and in environments that maximise academic and social development. However, DdHHHI students continue to be marginalised in the NSW education system.
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