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July 16, 2004

New Tokyo school to prepare deaf students for university education

From: Daily Yomiuri, Japan - Jul 16, 2004

Yomiuri Shimbun

The Tokyo metropolitan government has decided to open a school for the deaf that will offer six years of middle and high school education intended to enable students to go to universities and colleges, according to metropolitan government officials.

The new school will be the first of its kind in the nation, as existing schools for the disabled are designed to train students for a job after graduation.

Currently, there are eight municipal schools in Tokyo for hearing-impaired students. Some offer kindergarten, primary school and middle school education, and others offer only high school education.

Under the existing high school curriculum, students pursue general studies for first three years, followed by two years of vocational studies.

Such vocational studies mainly cover skills and knowledge needed for jobs most often held by deaf people, such as hairdresser, mechanic, printer and dressmaker. In most cases, such vocational training starts during the general studies stage.

Although some students wish to go on to university when they begin high school, they often give up their ambitions as they go through the vocation-centered curriculum and choose to go on to vocational studies.

Students and parents have sought a curriculum designed to prepare students for universities and colleges. Parent-teacher associations at the schools have asked the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to create "an academically competitive environment."

Behind this drive for change is the widening of career options for disabled people. The government used to disqualify disabled people from professional licensing, but it has lifted some restrictions since 1999. As a result, a hearing-impaired person may now become a local or central government official, doctor, cook or pharmacist.

The new school will cover the three years of middle school curriculum and another three years of high school general studies curriculum.

To provide quality education, the school will group students based on their ability and invite teachers from the regular school system.

Under the School Education Law, any student with a designated level of disability may enter a school for disabled students for their compulsory education. Therefore, the new school will accept students without holding an entrance exam.

If students have difficulty advancing to the academic high school curriculum, they will be allowed to transfer to other schools with vocational studies.

The metropolitan government will map out its plan for the new school in more detail by autumn. A metropolitan government official said, "We hope the disabled people will make their dreams come true by learning academic skills."

Copyright 2004 The Yomiuri Shimbun