When a person is suffering from cough and cold, many people advice different things to cure it. People also argue about whether allopathy is effective or homeopathy or Ayurvedic medicine. Why does this happen? Not because people like to argue but because the problems thrown to us by life are essentially complex. People differ in their approaches to attack these problems. This leads to various controversies in the field. Any profession that is dealing with human beings inevitably attracts such controversies and special education for the hearing impaired is no exception. We have several controversies which are often discussed by parents, professionals, media and policy makers. At present, let us discuss about two of these controversies:-
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Let us begin by knowing the meaning of the two terms. Segregated education is education in special schools designed especially to satisfy the needs of the hearing impaired students. This may include both specialized manpower and specialized infrastructure. Such schools have specially trained teachers who are supposed to use specialized techniques, methods, aids and appliances to teach. Such schools also include acoustic and architectural designs which are tuned to the needs of the hearing impaired.
On the other hand integrated education is education of a hearing impaired child in any school which is for non impaired children – popularly but quite incorrectly known as ‘normal schools’
Although the concerned controversy is popularly known as integrated versus segregated education this kind of classification is quite incorrect. Integrated and segregated types are like two poles and in between fall several other options. Segregation may mean complete specialized professional input. Integration may mean complete absence of specialized professional input. But most of the educational porgrammes are of neither type. These vary in terms of amount of specialized input and amount of social/communicative integration with the hearing world. Ideally, educational integration includes a resource unit and a resource teacher. Resource unit is the unit that is supposed to take care of the hearing impaired students needs in a non special school. Under the supervision of such resource unit educational programmes are planned with various degrees of integration/segregation. There can be hearing impaired students who sit with non impaired children in a classroom only for co-curricular activities, or for science/maths or only for social studies.
The controversy generally revolves around what is better for the hearing impaired children. Unfortunately, we don’t have any ready made answers in terms of what is better and what is not. However, we draw your attention to following points which help you form your own opinions.
One does not have to select a particular type for a life time. There are children who go to special schools for foundations of education and then, more readily move on to integrated education. Most of the special schools too aim at integrating their students. On the other hand there can be students who try integration initially and shift to a special school.
Whichever type of school the parents select they have to be alert about some things. If a special school is considered, check whether the teachers are professionally trained and the school has adequate aids and appliances. It is advisable to avoid the set up where children with different types of impairment are placed together in one classroom. If an integrated set up is being considered, then look for a school with resource unit. One has to be fortunate to find such a school in the close vicinity. If such a school is not within the reach, then at least the school has to be selected where school authorities and teachers are cooperative and are willing to try educational integration more positively. There is some reading material available at AYJNIHH for such non special teachers who have hearing impaired child/children in his/her class. In many states under the scheme of Integrated Education for the Disabled, orientation and training is provided to teachers and school authorities.
Persons with Disabilities Act (Equal Opportunities, Protection of rights and full participation, 1995) provided various concessions and facilities to the hearing impaired children so that these children can cope better in an integrated set up.
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To conclude, both integrated and segregated set ups are required to deal with hearing impaired children with varying kinds of clinical and non clinical background. Education is a must for any child the and the hearing impaired child is no exception. Whichever the type of education, it must smoothly lead the child to become a fully functioning individual – an individual whose potentials are developed fully and whose social interactions are fruitful. One cannot completely guarantee what will work with which child. We therefore have titled the controversy as integrated AND segregated education rather than integration VERSUS segregation.