According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are 70 million people with hearing impairments globally, and more than 80% of them live in developing countries. In the West Asian country of Jordan, 13% of the population, or 1.1 million people, live with disabilities, and 8.4% have hearing impairments. The lack of financing and infrastructure can hinder people with disabilities in accessing proper education. Accordingly, KO-ICA launched a project to build a school for students with hearing impairments in Jordan to support their growth and autonomy by through the provision of adequate education.
Specialized educational environment required for people with disabilities
People with hearing impairments who receive the necessary education in early years develop communication skills using methods to express thoughts through lip movements and facial expressions or sign language. Students with hearing impairments in Jordan had been in need of such special education and tools.
Upon stipulating in its constitution that all citizens have the right to education, the government of Jordan began providing special education in the 1960s. At the same time, there remained room for enhancement regarding awareness on disabilities and government support. Insufficient finances and the fact that most special schools for students with hearing impairments leased spaces in expensive private-owned buildings meant that fewer resources could be directed to enhancing the educational environment. Initially, there were 13 special schools for students with hearing impairments in Jordan, teaching 800 students.
The curriculum also needed to be adapted to students’ needs. The schools had no in-house audiology experts to provide precise diagnoses, and teachers were not professionally trained at length in education for people with disabilities, receiving 2-3 months of sign language training before being put into the field. While school curriculums included both sign language and oral method, it was difficult to provide systematic, well-structured education specialized for students with hearing impairments.
Meanwhile, those unable to enter specialized schools attended regular schools and took classes with students without disabilities without the support of any additional equipment or facilities. Students with hearing impairments were thus exposed to disadvantages in learning compared to fellow students. As a result, they often faced obstacles in finding quality jobs after graduation.
Building a special school tailored to students with hearing impairments
Through this project, KOICA aimed to provide students with hearing impairments with a quality learning environment tailored to their needs and improve the quality of special education by supporting capacity-building of hearing impairment experts. A pre-project survey of the special education sector in Jordan revealed a prominent problem: the lack of curricula and environments built in consideration of the characteristics of students with hearing impairments. Thus, KOICA planned this project to build a special school for students with hearing impairments in the municipality of Marka near Jordan’s capital city Amman.
The Marka School for Hearing Impaired Students accommodates 430 students with hearing impairments from kindergarten to lower secondary levels. Being true to its role to cater for students with disabilities, it has special rooms including a hearing test room, an auditory training room, and a language training room. A disability diagnostic test program was developed to provide precise diagnosis on hearing impairments. To maximize the effectiveness of the education, 14 types of auditory training material for students with different types and degrees of hearing impairment, 33 types of educational material, 99 furniture items, and two buses were offered.
Efforts were also made to support the capacity-building of special education teachers. KOICA dispatched a leading special education expert from Korea to Jordan to develop teaching materials and a curriculum for students with hearing impairments in the local language. To help Jordanian teachers maximize their capacities, a local training program covering 21 topics in four areas including education for the hearing impaired and special education techniques was organized for officials of the Ministry of Education and special teachers for students with hearing impairments. Some 245 teachers participated to gain skills in providing proper education and develop teaching materials for special needs students.
KOICA signs MOU with the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for continued follow-up measures
After the completion of this project, KOICA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for follow-up management, which aims to ensure continued provision of quality education. Under the MOU, the agency plans to conduct basic research on education for students with hearing impairments and build on the foundations for sign language education in Jordan. Such efforts will enable the provision of unified materials and guidelines to all schools for students with hearing impairments in Jordan.
As part of endeavors for follow-up management, seven experts in special education and hearing impairment from Korea visited Jordan to lead a local training session for 65 special needs teachers. The topics covered included the proper use of specialized devices for the hearing impaired, utilizing teaching material, and sign language teaching capability building.
Also, parents of children with hearing impairments were offered a session to discuss challenges they face in raising children with disabilities and explore solutions together. The training session and parents’ meeting were attended by 100 elementary and secondary teachers and parents of children with disabilities to deepen their understanding of hearing impairments and polish their skills in teaching, supporting, and guiding.
Improving the lives of people with disabilities through quality education
This project had great significance in that Korea’s advanced special education system was transferred to Jordan, thereby supporting the development of special education and improving the quality of the lives of people with disabilities in Jordan. In particular, building a decent special school for students with hearing impairments in Marka contributed to improving Jordan’s special education environment and the quality of special education. Indeed, 1,067 students have benefited from the special education since 2017. Currently the Marka School for Hearing Impaired Students has 50 teachers teaching 166 students. The school is recognized for its cutting-edge facilities and advanced curriculum not only in Jordan but also all across the region.
Providing special education to students with hearing impairments through this project will also greatly contribute to improving the quality of the lives of people with disabilities. Upon receiving adequate and relevant education during schoolyears, people with disabilities actively participate in society and economic activities.
The Marka School for Hearing Impaired Students will also serve as an exemplary model for special schools for students with hearing impairments in Jordan. The dissemination of this model will contribute to spreading Korea’s special education curriculum and to better understanding the needs of people with disabilities in Jordan. KOICA will continue putting forth efforts to improve people’s awareness on disabilities and enhance environments for people with disabilities in developing countries.