Experimental program with the use of Sign Language at schools for the Deaf in Japan

The experimental program with the use of "Japanese Sign Language" (JSL) as the first language of the Deaf children has been carried out for two years at three schools for the Deaf in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. It ended when the school year was over at the end of March, 2009.

In the classroom at the Sapporo School for the Deaf, located in the capital of Hokkaido, Mizuho Tanaka, a hearing teacher, taught two fifth graders arithmetic. She wrote a question in Japanese sentences on the blackboard; "You bought three candies of five yen a piece, and you have 94 yen in the purse. How much did you have at the first place?" And then she signed to the children. One of them wrote the expression to lead the correct answer on the blackboard. Tanaka praised him patting his head. She said, "The Deaf children quickly understand when taught in JSL".

Though the education of the Deaf has been conducted mainly in oralism up to now, the number of parents and guardians who hope for JSL as an instruction method for their children has increased as they believe that the oral method is difficult for those born deaf.

The Sapporo School for the Deaf offers two selective teaching methods for the instruction in the classroom; oral method or JSL. Twenty-two out of total 49 children in the elementary division chose JSL.

The Hokkaido Board of Education is specifying the school for the deaf in Asahikawa and Obihiro besides one in Sapporo for the experimental program. The signing skills of the teachers and teaching practice in the classroom have been advanced for two years. Based on the result, all of the eight schools for the Deaf in Hokkaido will start the experimental program in April, 2009 when school begins for a new term.

However, as it is said that there are sign systems such as manual signs besides JSL, the Board has yet decided which one to be adopted for the instruction in the classroom.

Moreover, it takes time to master sign language. According to the survey of the Board, out of 334 teachers from all the schools for the deaf in Hokkaido, 50.4% answered that they were fluent enough to converse in JSL on daily basis. Actually the percent or number of teachers is expected to be less when it come to the classroom teaching where JSL is completely used all time. The issue is how to train a qualified teacher with JSL.

Source in Japanese:

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