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Support for post-school deaf or hard of hearing students in Australia

Article publié le Saturday 7 October 2006.

Emeritus Professor Des Power (Centre for Applied Studies in Deafness - Griffith University - Queensland, Australia)

In Australian states (six) and territories (two) students (including deaf or hard of hearing students) must attend school until fifteen or sixteen years of age. After school those who wish to continue their education can choose among going to work (often with an apprenticeship to a skilled trade), a college of Technical and Further Education (TAFE),a private college (this last mostly for business, tourism, etc) or university. Various kinds of support are available for deaf or hard of hearing students for continuing their education in these places.

A Commonwealth Government (national) agency (“Australian Hearing”) provides free hearing aids and hearing aid repairs to all deaf or hard of hearing students up to the age of 21 years. After that deaf or hard of hearing people (except Government pensioners) have to meet their own costs. A separate fund provides most of the cost of a cochlear implant for children (not for the surgery, which must be otherwise met).

All states and territories, the Catholic education system and some private schools provide services for deaf or hard of hearing students. Over 85% of these students in Australia are in regular classes, most of them supported by itinerant teachers of the deaf (up to five visits per week). In almost all regular classes their education is oral, with a very small number receiving sign interpreting services. All states also have classes (“units”) for deaf students in regular schools. Most of these classess use Signed English in Simultaneous Communication; a few use Australian Sign Language (Auslan). There are now only a small number of schools for the deaf, a couple oral, but most use Auslan in a bilingual-bicultural approach.

At Work: Quite a large number of deaf or hard of hearing young people go direct to work when they finish school. They enter a wide range of occupations. In many cases they can become apprenticed to an employer who gives them “on the job” training for four or five years, usually with weekly periods of learning in a TAFE College as well. Most apprenticeships are in business, building, motor mechanics, engineering, hairdressing, dressmaking and fashion, hospitality and tourism, food preparation and cooking, and similar trades. Apprentices are paid during this time and funds are available from governments for these payments and to assist employers meet costs of taking on apprentices.

At TAFE College: All states and territories have TAFE colleges. A large number of deaf or hard of hearing young people attend courses at these colleges. The level of study is between apprenticeship and university. Students graduate with a Diploma after two or three years. Fees are charged. Graduates can obtain credit for university study from their work at a TAFE. TAFE colleges have courses in much the same areas as described in “Work” above. In most colleges there are support programs for students with disabilities and deaf or hard of hearing students would be managed by these programs for interpreting, notetaking and special tutorials. In some states itinerant teachers of the deaf would come to the college to assist the deaf or hard of hearing students.

At Private Colleges: Little information is available about deaf or hard of hearing students in private colleges. Most such colleges are in business and tourism and similar areas. There are probably very few deaf or hard of hearing students in these colleges.

At University: Australia has 38 universities (all of them government except for three private ones). Funding for government universities is a mixture of Commonwealth and State money. Students are charged fees; universities are no longer free in Australia. The Commonwealth Government provides special extra funding for all students with disabilities (including deaf or hard of hearing students) to each university. This money is used for sign language interpreters, notetakers, tutors and in some cases technological aids (e.g., FM hearing aids). Most universities do not have specialist education of the deaf staff. They hire interpreters and tutors as needed. A few, like Griffith University, have a specialist “Deaf Student Support Program”, which uses teachers of the deaf as coordinator of services and interpreting and tutors. Deaf or hard of hearing students can undertake any of the University’s degrees and there have been deaf or hard of hearing graduates in several sciences, law, humanities, education, business, leisure management, photography and other arts, information technology, and psychology. They would graduate after three or four years with a Bachelor’s degree in their field of study. A number go on to do graduate work and Griffith university has just graduated its first Deaf PhD. Griffith University is specially proud of its program to qualify deaf or hard of hearing people as teachers of the deaf and deaf graduates are teaching all over Australia.

You can visit the website from Griffith University

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