New course, new opportunities

New course, new opportunities


The UG course has been designed and developed by experts at the University of Lancashire and IGNOU, following an agreement signed by the prime ministers of India and the UK. Thirty students have signed up for the programme.

Xuesong Guan (21) from China is overjoyed that his speech-impairment will no longer stop him from making his dreams come true. Like him, 30 students of the four-year BA course in Applied Sign Language at the Indira Gandhi National Open University believe the programme is their gateway to a better and brighter future.

The undergraduate course has been designed and developed by the University of Central Lancashire (UcLAN), following an agreement signed by the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and India, under the UK-India Educational Research Initiative (UKIERI) scheme.

The two universities are represented by Prof PR Ramanujam, director of Staff Training and Research Institute of Distance Education (STRIDE) of IGNOU and Prof Ulrike Zeshan of UcLAN, respectively. 

Sign language is the oldest mode of communication known to man. It differs from nation to nation and culture to culture, yet is not difficult to adopt. Often, speech-impairment exists along with hearing-impairment. An effective curriculum would have to accommodate both aspects of applied sign language to prove useful for the students. 

According to Shibaji Panda, lecturer at UcLAN, who has been deputed to IGNOU to start the applied sign language course, the problem of communication is heightened when the speech/hearing-impaired person has to communicate at formal gatherings such as seminars  or at social gatherings.

Dr Panda, who has speech and hearing impairment, says there is — invariably — a great deal of gesticulation involved in sign language.

“Each country has its own sign language. Even within India, sign language is different from region to region. Just 25 per cent of sign language is common to all cultures. But in two-three hours’ time one can manage to communicate rather well,” he says, adding that sign language scholars are working to develop common norms.
He describes the programme as “truly international, befitting the philosophy of an Open University”.

It’s for the first time that efforts are being made to streamline a syllabus for sign language from graduate courses to MPhil and Ph.D programmes. The approach, adopted at IGNOU, is holistic, and the graduating students will be able to work in different fields.

From 2013 onwards, IGNOU will be able to produce 30 employable sign language graduates every year. Like Guan, many of the foreign students, who have signed up for the programme, will return to their countries to educate a new generation of students.