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Petition urges government to make Indian sign language compulsory learning in schools & colleges

A petition seeking to make Indian sign language compulsory in all schools and colleges has been moved by Sangeeta Gala, a prominent deaf activist and sign language consultant for Bollywood films. The petition details the ways in which sign language can be made a part of the curriculum and urges the community to push the government to include this while framing the National Education Policy.

Of the estimated 20 lakh deaf children in India, only 12 lakh attend basic schooling, the rest are drop outs or have no access to education. Those who do attend deaf schools don't have access to quality education or are denied access to sign language, restricting development.

The only way to change this and enable an equal platform for deaf and hard of hearing students is to make Indian sign language compulsory in all schools and colleges, believes deaf activist Sangeeta Gala.

In a petition titled National Education Policy 2019 - Indian Sign Language - ISL to be Included in all Hearing-Deaf Schools and Hearing Colleges, Sangeeta has asked the Deaf community to urge the government to push for sign language inclusion in all academic curriculum.

This, says Sangeeta, is essential as language deprivation or delays between ages 0-5 years is the main cause of many deaf children's eventual reading, academic, and social struggles. By the age of five, when a child's brain is 90% developed, most deaf children enter kindergarten without language, leading to what she describes as an "epidemic of language deprivation in deaf children."

What the petition says

The petition recommends ways in which this inclusion can happen:

  • Provide families with Indian Sign Language services through DEIC (District Early Intervention Centres), in the same way that families receive speech, physical, and occupational therapies.
  • Employ professionally qualified Deaf specialists to provide ISL services as a part of intervention services for families and their children
  • Involve trained Deaf specialists in early childhood education of all Deaf babies and toddlers ages 0-5 years through a formal state structured Deaf Mentor Program.
  • Develop a nationwide structure for a Deaf mentor program to enable provision of quick, early, and appropriate role models and services to Deaf children and their families.
  • This will include establishing a formal certificate programs to train Deaf adults to become Deaf Mentors and Family Services professionals to assist with home-based bilingual instruction and cultural information about ISL-Deaf people.

I urge the Deaf community to fill the online form and state that Indian sign language be considered as one of the languages in schools. It is the first time that the Government of India has asked the public for their opinion. Indian Sign language must be one of the subjects in school and universities. It is our chance to persuade the government and change the Indian education system to make sure that Indian sign language is a part of all schools.- Sangeeta Gala, Deaf activist

The petition has many other important details and you can read it here.

Including sign language in academic curriculum, says Ruma Roka, Founder, Noida Deaf Society would help end the isolation faced by deaf and hard of hearing children. "This would be a big step if it happens. Today deaf people are cut off due to language and ISL is even regarded as a bad word". She points to the attitude within deaf schools to make the point. "Even at deaf schools you barely hear sign language because the focus is always on speech. Including this in the curriculum will mean recognition as a linguistic minority".

Vidya Menon, a Deaf teacher at impact enterprise v-shesh believes this will pave the way for more inclusion in classrooms. "It's a good exposure for everyone to know about ISL and if it's in the curriculum in all schools then students will learn it like Hindi and other languages. This will be good for the deaf community where they can have access to communication and learning and be a part of inclusive classrooms".

Vidya believes this will also pave the way for larger inclusion. "The hearing community will gain more awareness about deaf people and and there may be more interpreters for deaf people, so I hope the government will approve this".

"Why learn English, French, Spanish, etc., when we bump into a deaf person at every mall", asks Ruma. "This is more relevant and and a big step towards diversity and an inclusive society. I hope it comes through".

Do sign the petition soon. The last date is 15 August and to find out how to sign, click on this link

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