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Radka Nováková (CZ)

Radka Nováková (CZ)

Deaf, native signer of Czech Sign Language.

Assistant Professor, the Institute of Deaf Studies, the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague.

Chief operating officer of Pevnost – the Czech Centre of Sign Language in Prague.

Editor of the News in Czech Sign Language, Czech Television.

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1. What, in your opinion, are the strengths/ weaknesses of the current system in your country?

In my opinion, there are more weaknesses than strengths in the Czech Republic. An example of a weakness: there is no standardised system for teaching sign language or the training of sign language teachers. Organisations providing CzSL courses and also freelance sign language teachers often see each other as competitors, fighting for the same students or jobs.

The strengths, on the other hand: I see that Czech Deaf people are more self-confident; they are more aware of the value of their sign language. They speak out that the CzSL courses should be led by Deaf native signers. 

 2. Can you give us examples of ‘best practice’, in your country?

I can give you two examples.

First, Pevnost organised the first international conference of Sign Language teachers in history – LESICO in 2013, in Prague. The LESICO conference was a place where professionals could exchange not only their teaching experiences but also news from the academic field of research on sign languages and the teaching of sign languages and finally, it was a unique opportunity to make new contacts in this field.

At the end of the conference, there were two more important events. First, the conference participants decided that a LESICO conference with the same name will be held every two years. Secondly, the proposal was approved to set up a professional organisation: the European Network of Sign Language Teachers (ENSLT) that would unite deaf sign language teachers together in its goal, as it is in Europe.

Second, the Institute of Deaf Studies is an associate partner in two European projects: Sign Languages and the Common European Framework of References for Languages. Descriptors and approaches to assessment (ProSign) carried out in the ECML’s 2012–2015 programme, and Promoting Excellence in Sign language instruction (ProSign2) carried out in the ECML’s 2016–2019 programme. The Institute translated the brochure Sign Languages and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Common Reference Level Descriptors into the Czech Language. 

3. Can you tell us about the accreditation of sign language teachers, in your country? Is the system as accessible for Deaf teachers as for hearing teachers?

There is no regular BA or MA programme for sign language teachers in the Czech Republic. Deaf students who graduate from the Institute of Deaf Studies, are able to become sign language teachers. But this does not work well because there are no clear qualifications for teachers of different target groups. Most of the teachers know how to teach hearing adults, but they do not know how to teach deaf children at school etc.

There are informal short-term training courses for sign language teachers, organised by many organisations. Unfortunately, we don’t have a central registration system for qualified teachers; there is no quality control of independent sign language teachers. Anyone who wants can teach sign language in the Czech Republic. 

4. Can you tell us something about curriculum development in your country? Are curricula based on the CEFR?

I can tell you about one project related to the subject of Czech Sign Language at kindergarten, primary and secondary schools for the Deaf. The National Institute for Education (NÚV) run directly by the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports in cooperation with deaf teachers (lead by Marie Basovníková) has started to develop methodological materials and methodical support for deaf teachers of Czech Sign Language. This project will run from January 2017 to December 2021. 

5. What, in your opinion, is the way forward for sign language teaching & the training of sign language teachers in your country, and/or in Europe?

In my opinion, to begin to improve the quality of sign language teachers, we need to do many things in our country:

  • Establish a professional association of CzSL teachers;
  • Develop a CEFR for CzSL;
  • Cooperate with ENSLT (European Network of Sign Language Teachers);
  • Exchange information and share experiences with sign language teachers, both nationally and internationally, and
  • Encourage sign language teachers to participate in various seminars and training workshops in Europe or to study available open educational resources for Sign Language Teachers (for example www.signteach.eu).  

 Date of the Interview: May 2017