Deaf people will soon be able to teach primary school students with hearing impairments under a new teaching degree introduced at Dublin City University (DCU).
The new Bachelor of Education in Irish Sign Language at DCU is the first programme of its kind in Ireland and is set to commence in September. It will bypass the higher-level Irish Language requirement, which has been a barrier for many deaf students and instead request an entry requirement at a similar level in Irish Sign Language (ISL).
Dr Anne Looney, Executive Dean at DCU commented: “Now ISL gets its full recognition and equal status as a path to primary teaching.”
Until now there has been no entry route to primary teacher education for someone who communicates through ISL and cannot meet the minimum entry requirements for Irish at Leaving Cert Level.
Now, the entry criteria will be more flexible regarding Leaving Cert grade requirements and graduates will be qualified to teach in the deaf education sector.
Minister of Education, Joe McHugh, said that the programme had received special funding aimed at increasing access to initial teacher education for students with disabilities. He stated: “This new degree programme for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to become teachers is a hugely important step towards ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom.”
Currently, education for deaf pupils is primarily through deaf schools and special classes where there are typically between six and eight students in each class. These are taught by a hearing teacher who may have an additional non-teaching staff member with ISL to translate. McHugh states that having fluent ISL teachers will enable children to “fully access the curriculum”.
The four-year, full-time undergraduate course is exclusively for members of the deaf community but core modules will be delivered alongside hearing peers. The programme also includes a 30-week school placement.
Applications for the new course are being processed through the CAO before the February 1 closing date. The programme is to be implemented in September with a total of six places being initially available. Subsequent intakes of students are scheduled for September 2023 onwards.