Deaf Education in China: History, Current Issues, and Emerging Deaf Voices

Article excerpt

AN OVERVIEW is provided of (a) deaf education in China, (b) views of deaf Chinese, and (c) recent empowering international collaborations. China's national policy focuses on oral/aural education and hearing rehabilitation. However, everyday practice in schools for deaf children includes various forms of Chinese Sign Language. Early childhood education focuses on speech and hearing. Elementary and secondary school curricula reflect low expectations for deaf students and lack the same academic content provided to hearing students. There are limited higher education opportunities. There are no support services such as note takers or interpreters for mainstreamed students. There are no deaf teacher preparation or interpreter training programs. Jobs are few; the vast majority of deaf adults are unemployed. Deaf people interviewed for the article describe their needs, their dreams, and the changes they are witnessing, which result in part from recent empowering international collaborations.

The Authors and the Process

The present article and the collaboration surrounding its research and development are based on a belief reflected by the statement "Nothing about us, without us" (Moore, 2003). All of the work supporting this article was the result of a collaborative process involving deaf and hearing, Chinese and Americans, working together, learning together, and ultimately writing together. While the portions of the article that provide an overview of deaf education in China rely on data and descriptions obtained from published sources, much of this work reflects the three authors' extensive travel and work throughout China over the past 6 years. Thousands of hours of meetings, interviews, and interactive discussions with deaf and hearing people of all ages and walks of life are reflected in this article. It includes the perceptions of professionals as well as those of everyday Chinese citizens.

Each of the authors brings a unique set of experiences, skills, and knowledge. One of the authors, Yang Jun Hui, is a profoundly deaf Chinese woman who grew up in China and is fluent in Chinese Sign Language (CSL), American Sign Language (ASL), Mandarin Chinese, and print Chinese and English. Her education included both special schools for the deaf and schools for hearing children in Beijing. Prior to coming to the United States to study for her master's and Ph.D. degrees in deaf education, she was China's first modern deaf "academic teacher." She is widely recognized throughout China by both deaf and hearing people as a leader in deaf education. The other two authors, both hearing, have extensive experience in deaf education in the United States and have traveled widely in China. In China, communication for the three authors is facilitated by interpreting done by their deaf and hearing Chinese partners. The quotes from deaf Chinese individuals are from a research project titled "Deaf Education in China: 2002 to 2020," completed as part of Kathryn E. Johnson's dissertation research at the University of Minnesota (Johnson, 2003).

Deaf Education in China, 1880-2002: A Brief History

This brief history begins with the welldocumented 1880 conference in Milan, Italy, at which oral education methods for teaching deaf children were given recognition as superior to those of manual education incorporating sign language (Timeline of Deaf History, 2004). Two missionaries working in China attended the Milan Conference. After Milan, the Rev. Charles Rogers Mills and his wife, Annette Thompson Mills, returned to China, where in 1887 they established the first documented school for the deaf, the Chefoo School for the Deaf, in Tungchow. Since that time, the oral approach has continued to be the dominant approach promoted by Chinese governments and by educators in China (Yang, 2002). However, everyday practice in schools for the deaf has long entailed the use of "Signed Chinese" and CSL. Even today, the Chinese government officially supports oral rehabilitation as the preferred approach to teaching deaf children, though there is increased recognition and support of schools and projects that use Signed Chinese or CSL for some deaf children. …