Recognition of NSL and Bi-Lingual Education in Norway
Recent reforms in the education of the Deaf in Norway have given children with Norwegian Sign Language as their preferred language, new legal rights. They are to be taught in and about Norwegian Sign Language (for short NSL).
NSL lessons are now to be found on the timetable. They are not a supplement, but an addition to the rest of the ordinary curriculum. The number of NSL lessons is equivalent to the number of lessons all pupils receive in Norwegian during their compulsory education in Norway.
Deaf children have been given their own syllabus in four subjects to supplement the ordinary curriculum, or in addition to it. These subjects are:
1. NSL (This subject includes amongst other things the study of NSL and Deaf studies.)
2. Norwegian for the Deaf (This syllabus is adapted from the ordinary syllabus, having the same cultural content, but with the teaching of the Norwegian language based on the Deaf child's needs. These two syllabuses, NSL and Norwegian are closely linked, as between them they represent the Deaf child's bilingualism, and they have equal status.)
3. Drama and rhythms (This subject replaces music)
4. English for the Deaf, including the introduction of British Sign Language (Norwegian schools with Deaf pupils are interested in establishing links with the Deaf community in the UK)
(The curriculum will be available in English on the Internet: http://skolenettet.nls.no).
Back to the reform which we call L97: it is based on the principle that each child be given the opportunity to develop to their full potential in an environment which shows respect for the child's language (NSL) and culture (Deaf culture). At the same time as the child develops a positive, confident Deaf identity, he/she should be helped to develop the skills necessary to participate in the hearing world.
Teachers of the Deaf must have a formal qualification in NSL. It is no longer acceptable to have teachers who are unable to communicate with their pupils. Teacher training is open to Deaf students. They can choose to go to any teacher training college, or they can attend the college in Trondheim which has special facilities for Deaf students, and where many of the courses are taught in NSL.
In addition to the educational reforms, parents of Deaf children have been given the opportunity to receive 40 weeks tuition in NSL (all expenses paid) at their regional resource centre. The objective is to give the parents the means to communicate with their child and facilitate the child's language development, which in turn, we expect, will promote the child's social, intellectual and emotional development. There are also provisions for the rest of the family, neighbours and friends to learn some NSL by taking part in subsidised 24-hour courses organised locally.
Each county has a state-employed co-ordinator and advisor for deaf and hard-of-hearing education. The co-ordinator is part of the resource centre system. Each region has a centre that consists of a school, an advisory department and a development department.
The Ministry of Education is at present evaluating the reforms.
By Patricia Pritchard, former teacher of the Deaf, presently County co-ordinator for the education of the Deaf and hearing impaired.Leader of the workparty for development of the curriculum English for the Deaf L97.