Just launched: First SA sign language teacher training programme

A first for South Africa, Embury are now training teachers and assistants in the skill of sign language, filling a gap in the education system.

On Monday 1 July 2019, Embury Institute for Higher Education (Embury) kicked off orientation week for a new programme and a South African first as it launches its South African Sign Language Teachers’ Training Programme.

Students enrolling for this programme, which is being run in partnership with the Development Institute for the Deaf and Blind (DIDB), will qualify with a Higher Certificate in Pre-school Education. The course is aimed at deaf teaching assistants and prospective South African sign language (SASL) teachers.

Embury CEO, Johan Human, explains that appointing qualified SA sign language teachers is a prerequisite for the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for the subject SA Sign Language as a Home Language, which came into implementation in 2015, yet less than 10% of schools for the deaf had a formal qualification in SASL at that time.

“The Department of Education appointed deaf SASL teaching assistants to co-teach with hearing teachers to try to close the gaps,” he says. “But while deaf teaching assistants are competent in SASL, most have never received formal training in classroom practice or qualified as teachers because universities are not accessible to them.”

Although deaf teaching assistants are required to do similar work as qualified hearing CAPS for SASL teachers, they are appointed on the lowest salary scales because they lack a formal qualification. The Embury qualification will be offered at NQF 5 level and carries 126 credits and targets various groups: deaf sign language teaching assistants with endorsed Senior Certificates without university exemption; those without a Senior Certificate, but employed at schools for the deaf who qualify via recognition of prior learning; deaf students who passed grade 12 with a university exemption; and prospective SASL teachers (with or without hearing loss), who wish to be trained as SASL teachers in full-service schools.

“We’re running the programme at our Montana campus in Pretoria, as a two-year part-time distance-learning qualification,” explains Human. “It will include periodic contact sessions, as well as school-based, work-integrated learning and tuition sessions at schools for the deaf or full-service schools.”

Embury will focus on core education-related training modules (such as early childhood development studies and computer practice for teachers), while DIDB will lead the deaf-specific training modules (such as ortho-didactics for teachers and educational audiology), all combined to create a holistic SASL teacher training curriculum.

Human adds that once students have successfully completed the Higher Certificate in Pre-school Education, they may enrol for a Bachelor of Education degree in Foundation Phase Teaching at Embury.

Ashley Hodgkinson is a qualified teacher who graduated from Embury in 2016 with a Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase. She also happens to be deaf. She is an enthusiastic ambassador for the programme.

“I was fortunate that my mother is incredibly dedicated and acted as my interpreter in the classroom during high school and my four years of higher education,” she says. “Not everyone has my mom, and I think that this programme is a giant step towards making formal teaching qualifications more accessible to hearing-impaired students, and in turn helping to improve the standards of teaching for deaf students throughout South Africa. It is also a wonderful opportunity for hearing students who want to learn how to teach using SASL.”

The first intake of students for the Embury SASL Teachers’ Training Programme Higher Certificate in Pre-school Education will begin their studies in July 2019 and will complete their course in late June 2021.


This article was originally published on The Good Things Guy.

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