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Innovative English language skills programme for deaf kids spreads its wings to Sri Lanka

As is the case in India, deaf children in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh miss out on critical language development skills due to lack of early detection. This later translates into missing out on learning English Language skills, so critical in higher education and employment. A curriculum designed by impact enterprise v-shesh is enabling children in these countries to address those gaps.

Four out of every 1,000 children born in India are deaf. Late diagnosis heightens the impact of the disability as it limits language skills in the crucial early years which means few deaf and hard of hearing children learn oral language skills. With sign language still not widely accepted as a medium of education in schools, they lack the opportunity to learn a language in their early years.

This makes learning how to read and write a nearly impossible task for most deaf children. Since they are exempted from learning a second language in schools, most deaf children learn just one language, typically the mother tongue. This means they lose out on basic English Language skills, vital for higher education, employment, etc.

To help address these gaps impact enterprise v-shesh has devised a programme that is successfully running in 10 schools in India. The approach is to offer content that is highly visual and aligned to the globally accepted framework for language learning combined with effective teaching techniques and a platform that facilitates self-paced and peer learning.

In partnership with Millennium Alliance, an inclusive platform that aims to identify and scale innovative solutions to address India's development challenges, v-shesh is expanding the programme to two schools in Sri Lanka as well as Bangladesh.

v-shesh will train school teachers here on the Bridge English curriculum, share content, shadow teachers over a year's period and conduct periodic assessments. The aim being to improve the English language skills of deaf learners.

Because deaf students don't learn a first language, they are not able to follow the grammar in English has because the brain has not received any inputs through hearing. The schools we work with follow the sign language methodology. Our English module is taught visually by using sign language. - R Joseph, v-shesh Access Services Pvt Ltd.

In Sri Lanka, v-shesh is working with the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana and Rohana school for Deaf and Blind in Matara. The target group are students from classes four to 10. Deaf trainers and teachers have been identified in the schools.

Similar experiences

Like in India, deaf students in Sri Lanka have problem with English language for lack of exposure says Chayanika Sarkar, who conducted the Train the Trainer programme in Lanka. This means deaf children only understand their mother tongue.

"Teachers there said students can't retain basic information for a long time, so they revise the same chapter again and again, making the overall learning process slow, says Chayanika. "Deaf students appear for the same examination as the other students, making it challenging for teachers and students to maintain the same level.

Keeping this is mind, v-shesh has started off with modules of basic English language content communicated through varied methods. "We expect that this will lay the foundation of the very language, help teachers address persistent problems with deaf students so they will be ready to absorb more with further modules, adds Chayanika.

Partnering Chayanika in the training sessions was master trainer Vidya Menon. "My focus is on teachers at deaf schools (trainers) on teaching English to deaf students, appropriate teaching strategies, activities for learning, and how to create lesson plans. I use gesture and sign mixed in order to communicate with others who use British sign language.

While it's too early to assess impact, Samanthika Jayasuriya, Principal, Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind says the students are participating in the lessons with enthusiasm.

"I found a lot of classroom activities in those plans which would attract students very easily. Apart from that, the subject content and objectives they use for one period is easily achievable. I am sure that our school will be able to achieve immense benefits from this program, says Samanthika, who hopes to use this methodology to teach the Sinhala language.

Tharaka Gabriel, a trainer at the same school, calls this the training she was waiting for.

"The lesson plans are very effective. I never had the chance to go to a training college so far but this has taught me how to cover all aspects and given us new methodologies for every age.

ALSO READ:Noida Deaf Society's skilling program gives deaf youth a competitive edge in the job market

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