Getting it right? A new approach to deaf education: Is bilingual/bicultural education a valid alternative?

Year: 1994

Author: Paterson, John F.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Traditionally, Deaf education has been polarised between Oralist and Total Communication philosophies. A new player has entered the scene in the form of bilingual/bicultural education.

Historically, educators of the Deaf have been preoccupied with the teaching of English. New research in the area of second language acquisition has shown that a first language forms a solid foundation on which to base second language learning. Many deaf students, particularly those from deaf families, come to the educational process with their own native language, namely Auslan (Australian Sign Language).

The Thomas Pattison School at The Royal New south Wales Institute for Deaf and Blind Children provides a bilingual/bicultural program in which the language of instruction is Auslan. Whilst research in the area is new and definitive results cannot be claimed, there are strong indications that students are acquiring English as a second language through instruction in Auslan. No intermediary in the form of Signed English is used. The English language is explained to students using Auslan.

The stance taken by this program is supported by research in other areas of bilingualism that indicate students do not need to learn again from basic principles when learning to read and write in a second language. This paper explores bilingualism as a new alternative in Deaf Education.