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Use of sign language expands in Kingdom

Use of sign language expands in Kingdom

The Department of Special Education at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports last year enrolled a total of 722 blind and deaf students in school as it continues to expand Khmer sign language services.

Special Education Department deputy director Phum Sarith presented a report on sign language inclusivity in education at a seminar on Friday, when he noted the number of students enrolled by the department.

He said the ministry cooperated with stakeholders to implement various activities to help disadvantaged children, especially those who need special education in Khmer sign language.

“In 2019, we enrolled 722 students into high school, educating them with visual and auditory methods. There were 555 deaf students. There were 12 students with both disabilities,” he said.

In collaboration with Save the Children, Sarith said the ministry implemented an inclusive education programme focusing on Khmer sign language at 10 target schools in Bakan district, Pursat province, and formed a coordination and management committee to accelerate sign language services.

“We also organised a sub-national taskforce to develop sign language documents in 10 target schools in Bakan district. We developed Khmer language teaching and learning materials for teaching and learning through technology.

“From now on, children with disabilities and especially disadvantaged children who are deaf and hard of hearing will have access to equitable and quality education and lifelong learning,” he said.

The ministry’s undersecretary of state Heang Sine said despite the programme with Save the Children being limited to schools in Pursat province’s Bakan district, it was very successful and he hopes to see it expanded nationwide.

“Our goal is to see all children – both with disabilities and those without, receive a quality education,” he said.

Save the Children country director Elizabeth Pearce said around 2.1 per cent of the population aged five and older were living with disabilities.

She said 57 per cent of primary school children with disabilities are out-of-school, compared to only around seven per cent for children without disabilities.

“Inclusive education is one of the top strategic priorities for our work in Cambodia. We are committed to promoting inclusive education in the sub-sectors of Early Childhood Development and Basic Education.

“We hope the ministry, and in particular the department of Special Education, will be able to use these innovative materials to build the capacity of teachers to support children with hearing impairments,” she said.

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