A child’s education begins at home. However, as 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents (who do not know Indian Sign Language (ISL)), there is little meaningful communication between Deaf children and their hearing parents without external involvement. For Deaf children, formal education cannot be delayed until kindergarten. If a Deaf child does not have the opportunity to develop language until they are school age, a crucial window of social, cognitive, and linguistic development will be lost.
This is why it is absolutely imperative that families with Deaf children be provided with Deaf mentors early on to teach both the Deaf child and the parents ISL. Deaf mentors may also serve as positive role models to Deaf children, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
There are over 800 schools for Deaf children in India. However, less than 10 of these educational institutions provide bilingual education for Deaf children using ISL and English, Hindi, and/or other local languages. In order to address the lack of bilingual educational resources, several non-profit organizations have collaborated with schools serving Deaf children to set up after-school programs that have hired Deaf teachers to teach English. However, the current Deaf education teacher training programs in India do not teach their students ISL. The programs only support teachers in learning how to teach Deaf children to speak and use their residual hearing, a strategy that does not work well for the majority of Deaf children. Due to this approach, Deaf teachers are ironically and unfortunately unable to become qualified teachers of Deaf children. Failing to educate teachers of Deaf children ISL, along with the limited availability of effective professional development for teachers of Deaf children, has led to chronic and critically low literacy levels among Deaf children and Deaf adults, and increasing frustration among their instructors.
Young Achievers is an organization that has been working to address these issues. Since 2013, Young Achievers has connected Deaf children and their families with Deaf mentors and provided opportunities for professional development for educators of Deaf children.