Sign bilingual education from infancy to secondary school
- Sign Bilingualism and Co-enrolment in Deaf Education Programme
- Chinese University of Hong Kong, Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies
- Country of Implementation
- Asia & Pacific
- Southeast Asia
- Hong Kong, Macao, Kuzhu, Kuanzho
- Start Year
- First published
“Growing up in a silent world, I am so grateful to have met the SLCO teachers in a happy learning environment. My biggest dream is to be a deaf teacher in future.” Heidi, a deaf girl who has been with SLCO for 13 years
In 2006, the Centre for Sign Language and Deaf Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong introduced the Sign Bilingual and Co-enrolment in Deaf Education Programme (SLCO), targeting deaf and hard of hearing children from infancy to secondary education. Deaf and hearing students study together in the same classroom, receiving sign language and oral instructions simultaneously. The courses are available in signed and spoken languages, using Hong Kong Sign Language, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. In 2019, 124 deaf children enrolled in the programme. The SLCO model has been extended to other neighbouring cities.
Due to an emphasis on oral learning and teaching in Hong Kong, deaf children do not have access to a comprehensive education, which further leads to lower social and academic performance.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The programme starts from infancy with a sign bilingual class, whereby deaf children up to the age of three learn sign language along with their parents. When they grow older, they are enrolled in the sign bilingual reading class to begin developing their literacy skills. Once in kindergarten, a hearing and a deaf teacher teach together in oral and sign language, creating a multi-sensory environment for all students. Finally, the children enter primary and secondary schools, where they continue to receive bilingual education. The ratio of students is usually one deaf or hard of hearing child to three or four hearing children in each class. The Child Assessment Service of the Hong Kong government recommends the SLCO model to parents of deaf children; and in Macau, the government introduced a new policy to give deaf children preferential admission to the SLCO nursery programme. The SLCO model includes the training of deaf adults to become teachers and sign language trainers for both students and parents. As of 2019, five crèches, one kindergarten, two primary schools, and one secondary school use the SLCO model. There are also new programmes started in Singapore, Macau, and the province of Quzhou in Mainland China.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Because there is no government support for sign language in mainstream schools, SLCO relies on funding from charities and trusts. It has also received financial support from sources such as public donations and parent contributions. In terms of transferability, the Singapore Ministry of Education started a similar programme in 2018, and SLCO receives regular queries and visits from educators in other countries, including Belgium, Holland, Japan, and Sweden. Going forward, SLCO plans to organize training and workshops to support organizations that wish to replicate the model along with establishing a network to connect professionals and deaf educators.