Global Campaign for Education statement On the occasion of the International Day of Sign Language

Global Campaign for Education statement On the occasion of the International Day of Sign Language

On the occasion of the International Day for Sign Language, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) calls on all governments and world leaders to ensure that learners who are Deaf have access to inclusive quality free education in sign-language – their ‘mother-tongue’.

In 2015, world leaders committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For education, this includes the pledge to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030‘. Unfortunately, learners with disabilities in some of the world’s poorest communities, including learners who are deaf still fall way behind.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people (32 million children) worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) recognises that sign languages are equal in status to spoken languages and should be respected and promoted, and requires governments to recognise the right of all persons with disabilities – including deaf people – to education without discrimination and on the basis of equal opportunity. Yet, only 41 countries recognise sign-language as an official language.

Early access to sign language, is vital to the growth, development and inclusion of people who are Deaf and is, therefore, key to fulfilling the right to education and broader human rights of young children and learners who are Deaf. For this reason, it is crucial that governments invest in developing the curriculum for Sign-language and offer it as an official subject in school. It is also crucial that youth who are Deaf are encouraged to pursue a career in the teaching profession. For example, in Papua New Guinea, youth who are Deaf serve as teaching aids at inclusive schools while completing their qualifications as teachers. There is no better teacher than a native language user.

However, learners who are Deaf have historically faced many barriers to quality education. Even when schools exist, many families in low- and middle-income countries question the value of sending their child to school because of the lack of access to sign-language and teacher skills and adapted teaching strategies or tools, such as using more visual aids and demonstrations. Even when deaf learners have access to education the level attained is often low and illiteracy is common. There is an increasing interest in training teachers in sign-language, but a more systemic approach is required. This would for example involve developing a set curriculum, quality trainers, continuous professional development and regular competency assessments.

You have the power to change this now!

The GCE urges all states parties to ensure that deaf learners have access to an inclusive free public education system that guarantees a multilingual environment which fosters and respects their cultural and linguistic identity, with direct instruction in sign language, access to deaf teachers and deaf peers who use sign language and a quality bilingual curricula and pedagogy.

72 million people who are deaf depend on your urgent action to realise their Right to Education, be given a chance to succeed academically and become active citizens and full members of society.

Sign the WFD Sign Language Rights for All Charter today to demonstrate your support for the rights of deaf people to realise their full human rights through the use of sign languages.

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