5.7 Country Report: Norwayby: Aud Karin Stangvik, Statped, Trondheim (NO)
In Norway there was a deaf person, Andreas Christian Møller, who established the first school for the deaf back in 1825. At this school, sign language was the language of instruction.
Eventually, several deaf schools were established, and during the late 1800, the discussion came about what was the correct language of instruction: sign language or spoken language?
For a long period, Norwegian sign language was preferred, but eventually Norwegian spoken language was introduced as the language of instruction.
In 1985, we had the first parliamentary report that recognizes Norwegian sign language as a language, and the 90s became a golden age for Norwegian sign language and sign language teaching.
Universities established Sign Language Interpreting and Sign Language Studies, deaf children gained their right to sign language education, and parents got the opportunity to attend 40 weeks of sign language training with a new program called "See My Language".
For elementary school and upper secondary school, deaf students could follow a dedicated curriculum in four subjects, including Norwegian sign language.
In addition, the University College of Sør-Trøndelag offered a study for deaf teacher students studying how to teach Norwegian sign language and the other subjects in a dedicated curriculum. Here, the students were especially qualified to teach Norwegian sign language as a subject.
Ål Folk High School
At the same time, Ål Folk High School and Course Center for the Deaf offered a one- year study program for sign language teachers.
With the development in the 1990s, it was now possible to study and be qualified to teach sign language to different target groups at different levels. Sign language teachers could study and discuss the pedagogic and didactic aspect of sign language teaching.
Today sign language teachers teach at schools for deaf, in mainstream schools, in colleges and universities, at Signo, Statped, deaf associations and at Ål Folk High School and Course Centre for the Deaf.
However, qualification of sign language teachers and teachers who teach the subject Norwegian sign language has become a neglected area.
The study programmes for the deaf at University College of Sør-Trøndelag and Ål Folk High School were closed down, and in the near future, we will lack qualified sign language teachers.
There is still political will to offer sign language teaching for different target groups. In the light of inclusion, sign language training is not only for deaf children and their parents, but it is now also on the agenda for fellow students, siblings and hearing children of deaf parents.
The big paradox then is that we missed the focus on qualifying teachers who can realise the good intentions.
Behind all the good intentions, a true acknowledgement of sign language, and what it takes to teach a language, seems to be missing. Today, we experience that sign language interpreters, assistants and teachers with low-level language skills are set to teach students in sign language.
For years now, the university has tried to establish studies that qualify students to teach sign language. Only in this way can we ensure sign language education and teaching based on a true acknowledgement of sign language as a language. We need qualified teachers to achieve the political intentions.
Statped develops bilingual learning resources for deaf and hard of hearing children. They develop materials for kindergarten and learning resources for primary and secondary education and training. In addition, they develop learning resources for sign language teaching.
Statped is also responsible for the development of the Norwegian sign language dictionary. The website www.erher.no gives access to all the resources that Statped has developed for the deaf and hard of hearing.