The Deaf Studies Curriculum Guide was developed at van Asch Deaf Education Centre 1995 to 1997. Two main purposes for the development of this curriculum guideline were:
• To provide a coherent and consistent framework for the teaching of Deaf Studies and New Zealand Sign Language at the primary school level at van Asch Deaf Education Centre.
• To provide a basis for the inclusion of Deaf Studies with its six major topics (Deaf Culture, Identity, History, Social Change, Communication and NSZL) in all the studies and activities across the National Curriculum.
The curriculum was developed over two years as a result of consultation involving a partnership between both the Deaf and hearing communities. An addition to the curriculum was developed in 1999 - a ‘Condensed High School Deaf Studies Introductory Curriculum.’ It was designed for the teaching of deaf studies to students who had arrived at the Centre in their high school years.
The development of the van Asch Deaf Education Centre Deaf Studies Curriculum Guide grew out of the need for deaf students to discover their heritage – to show them the richness of the culture, language, history and accomplishments of deaf people here in New Zealand and around the world.
Generations of deaf people have been born, raised and have died with no formal information about their language, culture heritage and history. Over the years deaf people’s way of living, their education and attitudes towards deafness have been shaped by the opinions of the hearing majority. At the same time, deaf people have known and talked about the “Deaf World.” Deaf people value their natural language and heritage, and have passed it on informally to their deaf children.
In 1960, William Stokoe published the landmark analysis of deaf people’s language. In 1985, Dan Levett published "An Introduction to New Zealand Sign Language". In 1997 a more comprehensive dictionary was produced by a team at Victoria University of Wellington, led by professor Grahaem Kennedy.
The curriculum explores six major strands (topics):
In this section students will develop a sense of belonging. They will develop a sense of who they are and develop a better understanding of themselves and of the Deaf Community
New Zealand Deaf Culture
In this section of the curriculum, students will look at the way of life of deaf people today. They will learn about the Deaf community. They will observe NZSL story telling and learn to tell their own stories in NZSL. They will develop an appreciation of the work of deaf artists, playwrights, poets, actors and writers. They will develop an understanding of the diversity of deaf people within the Deaf community. By studying the knowledge and accomplishments of deaf people students will broaden their understanding of the significant contributions of deaf people.
New Zealand Sign Language
It is important for students to develop an awareness of NZSL as a true language. By studying the unique features of NZSL, students will develop an appreciation for the language of the Deaf community.
This section on communication will help students become sensitive to their visual environment. Deaf students will develop communication strategies and skills for interacting with individuals in the community in both normal and emergency situations. They will learn to exercise their right to clear communication at all times.
In this section students will learn about their rich heritage. They will help to research and record the history of their people.
Students will look at ways that changing attitudes can lead to social and political changes. They will learn about their legal rights and the political process so they can continue the struggle for equal rights for all deaf people. They will study the “Deaf President Now” movement that was the first civil rights movement for deaf people. They will also discuss its worldwide impact and influence on the deaf community in New Zealand.