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Higher Education & Research

 
 
 

Higher Education and Research

 
 

Partnership between University of Central Lancashire and Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi

Distance
Education
in
Sign Language

Sibaji Panda, the fi rst deaf Indian to study for a PhD in sign language linguistics and a course leader for the new IGNOU programme, quotes, “In India, most sign language tutors have no formal university qualifi cations and most teachers in deaf schools do not have any sign language qualifi cations”. Sibaji Panda has just been appointed Vice President of the All India Federation of the Deaf (AIFD) which is an apex organisation for deaf people in India, affi liated to the World Federation

"The larger impact of this programme has been the immense contribution to deaf schools across the countries which are suffering largely because of their notso- qualifi ed teachers."

Sibaji Panda, Faculty – IGNOU
of the Deaf. He states “The UKIERI collaboration has helped us to address this challenge. The larger impact of this programme has been the immense contribution to deaf schools across the countries which are suffering largely because of their not-so-qualifi ed teachers.”

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) India and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) UK have worked together to systematically develop new approaches to distance education in the sign language medium.

One of the key achievements of the collaboration has been the launch of IGNOU’s Bachelor of Arts programme in Applied Sign Language. Experts believe this is the fi rst-ofits- kind in the world that prepares hearing-impaired students for higher education. The fi rst batch under this programme started in August 2009 and had 40 students for the regular classroom programmes.

The combination of peer education (using deaf peer tutors) and online materials has proven to be particularly powerful in this collaboration, and has led to newer opportunities. A summer school for deaf students at the University of Ghana, was arranged with support from UCLAN’s International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies. It uses the online learning platform as a demonstrative tool, with students receiving basic training in the concept of peer education and sign language-based learning materials. A new MPhil/ PhD student at UCLAN is now developing this approach further. The extension of the UKIERI project results in countries like Ghana has been an added benefi t that was not foreseen in the beginning.

The Indian Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment has also decided to establish an Indian Institute of Sign Language Studies. Due to the previous work under UKIERI, the ministry is actively considering the establishment of this institute at IGNOU. This would be a huge step forward for sign language studies in India.

For the fi rst time, deaf students in India are now able to access university education through the medium of sign language and gain an academic qualifi cation with a dual award from the UK and India. Moreover, a special university preparatory programme has been created (Bachelor Preparation Programme for Deaf Students), which directly uses some of the outcomes of UKIERI research.

The impact of these teaching provisions cannot be underestimated as this will create, for the fi rst time, a group of university educated sign language users not only in India, but also in other countries.