04 SES 02 E, Identity, Categorisation And Schools' Responses To Communication Difficulties
Today, disability centred outlooks oriented towards the compensation of hearing loss are step by step replaced by interpretations based on bilingual or even multilingual approaches, which are viewing the Deaf child as a member of a distinct cultural and linguistic minority (Higgins and Liberman 2016). In this context, it is necessary to acknowledge the educational implications of the fact that the internal structure of the Deaf community is not homogeneous (Delgado 1984; Humphries 1993; Lane et al. 1996), its members belong to different - majority or minority - ethnic-linguistic communities. The linguistic and cultural diversity of Deaf learners can be efficiently incorporated into educational strategies to promote their education and social inclusion by acknowledging that Deaf learners, similarly to hearing learners can have different backgrounds, family languages and cultural affiliations (Leigh and Crowe 2015). The notion of bilingualism, when referring to the linguistic-cultural needs of the ethnic-national minority Deaf learners, may be therefore misleading (Ohna 2003), as they are in a situation of dual bilingualism. In the light of the fact that children from minority ethnic communities must have the same rights as their counterparts with mainstream national affiliation, they have the right to be educated in their minority sign language national versions as well.
In Romania, the right of ethnic Hungarian Deaf children to study in the special school in their native language is only partially secured, being available exclusively in the first eight classes of the special school and in only one educational institution within the country. To those parents who refuse residential separation from their children, the only other available option is to choose one of the Romanian special schools, which offer education exclusively in Romanian oral language and opportunities for the informal acquisition of Romanian sign language only. On the other hand, since in Romania there are no vocational school level special classes reserved for the linguistic needs of Hungarian Deaf students, to the Hungarian-language school for Deaf graduates - unless they continue their studies in Hungary - the road will eventually lead to a Romanian special vocational institution.
In my research, I studied the educational and post-educational language socialization and identity development of the ethnic Hungarian Deaf living in a national minority situation in Bihor County, Romania. Based on the claims made in the specialist literature concerning the education of ethnic minority hearing children (Gúti and Szépe 2006, Göncz 2004) I formulated the hypothesis that the teaching language of the special school is an important factor in shaping the national identity of Deaf pupils belonging to the Hungarian minority in Romania. As far as the opportunities of preserving minority ethno-linguistic identity are concerned, the graduates of special schools with Romanian teaching language are at a serious disadvantage compared to their peers who studied in special school in their native Hungarian language and also acquired Hungarian sign language in the informal learning context of their special school.
In the course of the research, I aimed to find out:
a) What are the factors influencing the development of the ethnic-national identity of the members of the Hungarian Deaf community depending on their experiences of language use in special primary schools and subsequently in special vocational schools?
b) How the socialization into Deaf culture and the pursuit of native ethnic-national identity are interrelated in formal and informal educational environments and practices?
c) What micro- and macro-societal conditions affect the post-school language use, territorial settlement and family-setting options of the members of the ethnic Hungarian community members, and – linked to these - their chances to preserve their ethnic-national identity?
The researched population is made up of Deaf persons who cumulate the following characteristics: 1. Are residents of Bihor County; 2. Are of adults age (18 years or older); 3. At least one parent is tied to the Hungarian national-ethnic community; 4. In their case, at least one of the following conditions of belonging to Deaf culture / Deaf community is met: membership of the Association of the Deaf; graduation from special school for Deaf; Deaf parent(s); membership of religious congregations for Deaf. Over the research, the following methods and techniques have been applied: a) Statistical data collection was carried out from the records for the Deaf in Bihor (members of the Association of the Deaf), based on personal files, which provide information concerning major aspects of the Deaf community members life. The register includes files of around 600 people. Out of these members, an estimated one quarter supposedly has at least one parent of ethnic Hungarian descent. b) Questionnaire based survey among members of the ethnic Hungarian Deaf community in Oradea and their ethnic Romanian spouses. The surveyed population included 111 subjects, of which 89 are ethnic Hungarians and 22 Romanian spouses. I tried to contact every Deaf person with Hungarian ethnic background, so the survey included all recorded and active ethnic Hungarian members of the Deaf community who could be reached. c) Life path interviews with ethnic Hungarian Deaf individuals and their ethnic Romanian spouses (30 persons) selected on the basis of relevant typological criteria, in order to reveal their deeper motives and personal ways of reaching life-shaping decisions, the subjective means of experiencing key events occurred in one's life, and their influence on education, language use and identity. d. Family case studies, in order to allow the tracing of language learning, language use, and identity transfer within the family in a greater time horizon and its analysis in connection to the external factors and internal changes influencing family life. e. Structured interviews with highly experienced educators from the only one existing Hungarian language special school for Deaf in Romania, located in Cluj (Kolozsvár/Klausenburg). The problems addressed during the interviews concerned: past and current educational practices; parent educational options and motivations; relations between teachers, pupils, and parents; the Deaf community within the special school; further study and vocational mobility opportunities of the graduates; and factors influencing their linguistic and cultural identity development.
The results of my research confirmed the validity of my hypothesis. The fact that special vocational schools do not provide native-language further education in Romania may indeed weaken the achievements in identity preservation obtained during primary school years and thus strengthen the tendency of assimilation into the Romanian Deaf community. However, my research results suggest that this latter tendency is more prevalent among the Hungarian Deaf young people coming from the Romanian language primary special schools. In contrast, graduates of the Hungarian Deaf School are more likely to settle in localities with a significant Hungarian population compared to their peers who received special basic education in Romanian, and are more likely to establish ethnically homogeneous marriages that are favorable for the preservation of their identity, in many cases with the Hungarian Deaf partner known during the common school years. Thus, even though it is not in a language continuum of education for the majority of the graduates, the special primary school in the Hungarian language plays a significant role in preserving the national identity of the Hungarian Deaf studying there, through its direct and indirect effects. Within the ethnically homogeneous marriages (i.e. concluded between Hungarian partners), compared with mixed (Romanian-Hungarian) marriages, there are larger opportunities for the use of Hungarian sign language, and in some cases also for the use of Hungarian oral language. Similarly to the ethnically mix families between hearing partners, the preservation and transmittance of Hungarian minority ethnic-national identity is much more insecure in ethnically mix Deaf families compared to the ethnically homogenous Hungarian Deaf families.
Delgado. G., ed. (1984): The Hispanic deaf: The issues and challenges for bilingual special education. Washington DC, Gallaudet University Press Göncz L (2004): A vajdasági magyarság kétnyelvűsége: nyelvpszichológiai vonatkozások. Szabadka, MTT, 2004. Humphries F. (1993): Deaf culture and cultures. In: K. Christensen és G. Delgado (Eck.). Multicultural issues in deafness White Plains. AZ, Longman 3-16 p. Gúti E. és Szépe Gy. (2006): A szivárvány-koalíció nyelvpolitikája (Nyelvpolitika alulnézetben) In: Tóth Sz. (szerk.) Hatalom interdiszciplináris megközelítésben. Szeged, Szegedi Egyetemi Kiadó, 111-128. oldal. Higgins, M., & Lieberman, A. M. (2016). Deaf Students as a Linguistic and Cultural Minority: Shifting Perspectives and Implications for Teaching and Learning. Journal of Education, 196(1). Lane, H., Hoffmeister, R.és Bahan, B. (1996): A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD .San Diego, DawnSign Press. Leigh, G., & Crowe, K. (2015). Responding to cultural and linguistic diversity among deaf and hard-of-hearing learners. In: and Marschark M. and Knoors H (eds.) Educating deaf learners: Creating a global evidence base, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 68-91. Ohna, S. E. (2003): Education of deaf children and the politics of recognition. Journal of deaf studies and deaf education, 8(1), p.5-10.
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