A new degree programme, which enables people who are deaf or hard of hearing to become primary school teachers, has been formally launched.
The programme will be provided by Dublin City University's (DCU) Institute of Education from September 2019 and applications are now invited through the current CAO process.
"This new degree programme route for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to become teachers is a hugely important step towards ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom.
"It will enable deaf children who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) in primary school to fully access the curriculum by having teachers who are fluent ISL users," commented the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh.
He described the new pathway into the B.Ed undergraduate programme as a ‘historic development that will open the door to a world of teaching both for young people who use ISL, but also for people who want to teach through sign'.
This new pathway into the B.Ed undergraduate programme is being introduced initially on a pilot basis in September, with subsequent intakes of students scheduled for 2023 onwards. It is a four-year, full-time undergraduate course, which also includes a 30-week school placement.
The existing pre-requisite for Leaving Certificate higher level Irish is being replaced with an entry requirement at a similar level in ISL.
Entry to the course is exclusively for members of the Deaf Community who want to become primary school teachers working in the deaf education sector. However, core modules will be delivered along with hearing peers in the B.Ed programme, while modules specific to deaf education will be delivered as a specialism.
Some deaf education-specific modules will be made available as electives to hearing student teachers.
"This new course means that children who access learning and express themselves through ISL can be taught by teachers who do the same and who will be fantastic role models for deaf students in our education system.
"Traditionally, the languages needed to enter primary teaching have been English and Irish. Now, ISL gets its full recognition, and equal status as a path to primary teaching," said Dr Anne Looney, executive dean of the Institute of Education at DCU.
The closing date for this year's CAO process is February 1, 2019.