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Inclusion and educational equity for the hearing-impaired population

By: Juan Diego Linares Jaime, Lucia Nicole Chirinos Rosado and Valeria Cecilia Diaz Oporto

According to exact data from the World Health Organization, it is estimated that more than 5% of the world's population, until March 2021, suffers from hearing loss and, therefore, requires rehabilitation. Of these figures, 80% of the population with this problem live in countries with low income and high inequality; countries like Peru where according to the world inequality index, until the year 2020, it presents an inequality of 43.8%. Following the same line, the educational inequality index indicates that the most important gap is reflected in populations with different characteristics, special populations such as those with hearing loss where they depend on a person to carry out their daily activities and, according to the National Institute of Statistics, 4.5% tend to drop out of education.

School dropout is one of the main consequences of the difficulties encountered in education in Peru. This causes job opportunities to be significantly reduced, given the context of high labor competition, as well as social and personal development opportunities, which already generates a worrying gap. Furthermore, school dropout also tends to increase the possibilities of teenage pregnancy, the risk of becoming exploited in the labor market, child labor and violence (El Comercio, 2021).

Now, in the ongoing context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suspension of on-site education caused 7.8 million students, their teachers and families to face new ways of learning; that is why 337,870 students moved from private to public education, according to data from the Ministry of Education. The government's limited public spending on education, 4.2% of GDP by 2020, is reflected in the deficient infrastructure and school furnishings, as well as in the inadequacy of the school curriculum and teaching methods, which do little other than prioritize memoristic and not sufficiently heterogeneous learning. However, it is this heterogeneity that a country as culturally rich and diverse as Peru truly needs.

Educational inclusion and equity

Educational inclusion is the concept that acknowledges the right to education universally, that is, for children, teenagers, young people and adults, taking into consideration the different learning needs and capacities, as well as the particularities of each individual, in order to promote equal opportunities, the construction of a culture of peace and respect for cultural diversity.

Thus, when speaking of education, equality is justified under two precepts: First, the right to education is equal for all; and, second, we are all equal in dignity and, therefore, we are all active subjects of equal rights, freedoms and opportunities. However, when equality is understood as a synonym for homogeneity, it generates exclusion and injustice. Equal treatment would only work if all people were genetically, socially, culturally and economically identical; however, this could not be further from reality.

This is why, based on the heterogeneity of people, the concept of equity is born, arguing that it is fair to advocate for differential treatment, by which minimal inequalities can be generated to benefit those who are most vulnerable in the social structure. For example, an educational program with a compensatory character is justified when it aims to benefit minority groups, whose needs and capabilities merit it: The hearing-impaired population.

Educational Focus: The Hearing-Impaired Population

There is limited information about people with deafness in Peru, despite this, it is necessary to know the appropriate terminology to refer to this population group. A common mistake is to use the term “deaf” (sordomudo) to refer to those who are hearing impaired, which is redundant since all people who are deaf also have speech difficulties. On the other hand, it is incorrect to use the term "sign language" (lenguaje de señas), because language (lenguaje) is the ability to communicate and express feelings, even animals have languages (lenguaje), while language (lengua) is a code that speakers learn and use to communicate, equivalent to a language (idioma), with its own code, structure and vocabulary.

According to statistics presented by the INEI, in Peru 532,000 people have permanent hearing limitations, including using hearing aids. The main resources that people with this disability use to communicate are their voices (19.8%), gestures and hands (11.9%), hearing aids (3.9%), lip reading (3.9%) and sign language (2.9%). According to information provided by the National Registry of People with Disabilities of CONADIS, at the end of 2020, 14.4% of people with hearing impairment were between 3 and 17 years old and 19.8% between 18 and 29 years old.

The Ombudsman's Office warned, in relation to the education provided to people with deafness that, as of 2019, 76% of public Educational Institutions and 83% of private Educational Institutions were not in a position to provide quality educational services to deaf students. Unfortunately, the Peruvian Sign Language is not recognized or promoted in the early childhood of deaf people in our country; which means that its acquisition is in most cases late, having direct consequences on the learning and socialization of this population group.

Educational Policy Focus: The Hearing-Impaired Population

Some measures that have been taken at the legal level regarding the hearing-impaired population are the General Education Law (Nº28044), the General Law for Persons with Disabilities (Nº 29973), the Law that grants official recognition to Peruvian sign language (Nº29535) and the Law that recognizes deaf blindness as a unique disability for the care of deafblind persons (Nº 29524). Quispe and Sulca (2019) explain the consequences of each of these laws: due to the first one, basic education is organized in three levels, and one of them is Special Basic Education (EBE), which focuses on attending people with special needs or learning difficulties; due to the second one, it is established that any person with disabilities have the right to receive a quality education, with an inclusive approach, that responds to their needs and potential, within the framework of effective equality of opportunities, so no educational institution can deny access to a person with a disability; due to the third one, educational institutions, whether private or public, and from secondary to higher education, may request a sign interpreter who must remain in the institution until the hearing impaired student completes his or her studies; and due to the last one, MINEDU and CONADIS must encourage educational institutions to carry out activities to raise awareness of the issue among students, and they may also request interpreters.

In summary, inclusion allows for the construction of an equal education system for people with hearing impairment and for this it is necessary to develop tools, to ensure policies are implemented in an efficient way.


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