Higher Education for Deaf People

Thousands of students who are hard of hearing and deaf enroll in higher education programs in the US and other countries.However,  only a few complete their baccalaureate degree programs. The challenges of learning through support services and academic training are two critical reasons; however there are other factors for why deaf students give up their higher education, including program lengths, dissatisfaction with social life, difficulty in carrying full course loads and changes in career interests,.

Why Is The Deaf Students’ Failure Rate So High?

If you look closely into the matter, you’ll notice that most university courses are just not framed around deaf students’ needs. These courses tend to involve lot of peer learning and interaction. At a university, there are usually a small number of deaf students and they interact with each other outside the class, but inside the class they are separated because they are enrolled in different degree programs. And that clearly shows that deaf students are missing out on a lot.

It’s been observed that sometimes deaf students don’t seem to care about themselves or their future. The support workers justify things by saying “They are students and it’s common behavior in this age group.”  But the problem is that their disengagement rate is higher than their peers. They are often found playing on the internet while the tutor is delivering the lecture (which may be because they can’t listen at the same time) and obviously getting low grades.

Deaf students remain disengaged due to various reasons. But it’s our duty to help them out by understanding and providing solutions to their problems. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A basic deaf awareness training program for all students and staff might help.
  • Interpreters should be provided not only for classroom sessions but also for union and extracurricular activities.
  • There should be some deaf-focused students’ social activities.
  • Weekly or monthly workshops for staff and students to communicate their problems and figure out what is working and what isn’t.
  • Different groups for deaf students like film groups and reading groups.
  • Provide them with a flexible environment where they can open up and adopt new changes.

It is a responsibility of every one of us involved in research work or higher education of deaf students to help decrease the failure rate and find out the reasons behind why they are giving up in the middle of the course. We need to focus on how we can best develop qualities in them and support them in ways that will assure their success in higher education.

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