Minister launches new Irish Sign Language Bachelor of Education programme for deaf students

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. has today formally launched a new undergraduate programme in DCU that enables deaf and hard of hearing people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching.

The programme is receiving funding from the Department of Education and Skills under the PATH 1 inclusion programme. The objective of this fund is to increase access to initial teacher education for students from the target groups identified in the National Access Plan, including students with disabilities.

The new B.Ed. (Irish Sign Language) is the first programme of its kind in the history of the State. It is being provided by Dublin City University’s Institute of Education from this September, and applications are now invited through the current CAO process (closing date: February 1st 2019).

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “This new degree programme route for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to become teachers is a hugely important step towards ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom.

“It will enable deaf children who use Irish Sign Language in primary school to fully access the curriculum by having teachers who are fluent ISL users.

“I want to thank DCU’s Institute of Education. It is an historic development. It will open the door to a world of teaching both for young people who use Irish Sign Language but also for people who want to teach through sign.”

“As a primary school principal before entering politics, education is in my DNA. I know from first-hand experience how immensely valuable this programme will be. It will enrich teachers and pupils.”

“Today marks the first time a designated entry route for primary teaching has been available to deaf Irish Sign Language users. It is about inclusion. It is a progressive measure and I am delighted that we have been able to bring it to fruition for the 2019 academic year.”

This new pathway into the B.Ed. is being introduced initially on a pilot basis from September with six places available, with subsequent intakes of students scheduled for September 2023 onwards.

The existing pre-requisite for Leaving Certificate higher-level Irish is being replaced with an entry requirement at a similar level in Irish Sign Language.

While entry to the course is exclusively for members of the Deaf Community who wish to become primary school teachers working in the deaf education sector, core modules will be delivered along with hearing peers in the B.Ed programme, while modules specific to deaf education will be delivered as a specialism.

Some deaf education-specific modules will be made available as electives to hearing student-teachers. The four-year, full-time undergraduate course also includes a 30-week school placement.