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Developing new ways of teaching English with deaf people in India

08 July 2015

Press Office

A pioneering project to support English language teaching for members of the deaf community in India gets underway this week.  

A pioneering project to support English language teaching for members of the deaf community in India gets underway this week.

The ‘Peer-to-Peer Deaf Literacy’ project aims to improve the lives of deaf people in India by developing new forms of English literacy teaching for users of sign language.

Professor Ulrike Zeshan of the International Institute for Sign Languages and Deaf Studies, based at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), is leading the project along with Sibaji Panda. It also involves three members of Lancaster University’s Literacy Research Centre: Julia Gillen, Uta Papen and Karin Tusting and the Learning Technologist Phil Tubman.

The team will enhance deaf students’ ability to communicate in English, enabling them to reach out beyond the deaf community and to find new forms of employment. The project also aims to create a model of teaching that can be used in other countries, including Ghana and Uganda.

 

“The overall aim is to draft and pilot a model of effective peer-supported language teaching which can be adapted with sign languages communities in other parts of the world."

Ulrike Zeshan Project LeaderOnline tools are playing a major role in the model being developed. By making full use of smartphones, an online platform and digital technologies, the project seeks to improve the lives of young adult deaf students who have generally been left behind by formal education.

The aim is to develop literacy with deaf communities using sign language, peer tuition and learner-generated online content. Social networking sites, an important site for online activities, will also be included.

Research in India is being carried out in partnership with The National Institute of Speech and Hearing in Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala, and a network of five deaf-led NGOs.

Professor Zeshan said: “This is ground-breaking work that aims to provide English language teaching for deaf young people. The focus of the work is on improving the quality of educational outcomes for a specific community, which does not derive adequate benefit from traditional, formal literacy education.

“The overall aim is to draft and pilot a model of effective peer-supported language teaching which can be adapted with sign languages communities in other parts of the world."

 

“We are all looking forward to the project and working to make a real difference – not only in the communities we will be operating in, but in other parts of the world in the future.”

A researcher located at Lancaster University’s Ghana campus, and a researcher working with the Uganda National Association of the Deaf, will examine how the project can transferred across cultures and pave the way for future collaborations there.

Sibaji Panda, himself a deaf Indian academic, commented: “I am particularly motivated to get involved in this project because we implement deaf-led research. We are training eight deaf Indian staff as well as the African deaf research assistants. I also favour models of South-South collaboration.”

Lancaster University Literary Research Centre academics are delighted to be taking part in the one-year pilot project. Dr Uta Papen, a senior lecturer at Lancaster, will fly out to Kerala in India this week.

Alongside Ulrike Zeshan and Sibaji Panda, she will train research assistants and peer tutors in their uses of English literacy, collecting and examining examples of texts in English that learners engage with. She will also train the team in ways of researching uses of literacy and show them how to prepare learning activities and lessons around these.

She said: “The project has a ‘learner centred’ approach. It is all about helping local people to develop their own materials to help deaf people, in their community. We aim to deliver sustainable educational innovation that will help raise literacy levels and improve the quality of life of people.

“We are all looking forward to the project and working to make a real difference – not only in the communities we will be operating in, but in other parts of the world in the future.”

The one-year pilot project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development, as part of the ‘Education and Development: Raising Learning Outcomes in Educational Systems’ programme.