Providing live captioning direct to the iPads and laptops of hearing impaired children in classrooms across the state is among the early milestones of the brand new Victorian Deaf Education Institute (VDEI).
Officially opening Victoria’s first ever centre of excellence in deaf education on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Victorian Government was proud of its $9.2 million contribution to establish the Institute.
VDEI, which shares a home with the Victorian College of the Deaf, is raising the bar in deaf education by offering world-class teacher training, driving international research and using state-of-the-art technology to improve the way deaf students are taught and learn.
“The Victorian Coalition Government has a goal of providing every child in this state with the very best education from the moment they first step into a kindergarten, until the second they throw their graduation cap into the air,” Mr Dixon said.
“For too long, Victoria’s 2,760 deaf and hearing impaired students were not being provided with the same educational opportunities as their peers, which is completely unacceptable.
“Victoria’s deaf education review in 2010 found that one in two deaf or hearing impaired students dropped out of school between Years 10 and 12, and that is something that this government is working to reverse by providing $9.2 million over four years to VDEI.”
Since opening the doors to its new $1.6 million tailor-made building in March, more than 500 professionals, including teachers, audiologists and speech pathologists, have attended high-quality professional learning programs at the Institute.
Fifty teachers are now undertaking Master of Education (hearing impairment) scholarships at VDEI through its partnership with The University of Melbourne and The University of Newcastle’s Renwick Centre.
VDEI has also initiated a number of research projects, including its real-time captioning pilot across nine schools including: Forest Hill College, Charles La Trobe College, Sunshine College, Shepparton High School, Bendigo Secondary College, Ballarat Secondary College, the Victorian College of the Deaf, Mount Erin College and Grovedale College.
A microphone worn by the classroom teacher instantly sends their voice via mobile phone to captioners who then re-speak the teacher’s words into specialist software. A caption is then sent to a student’s iPad or netbook within seconds.
“VDEI’s projects, including its real-time classroom captioning pilot, are already contributing to improving education and support for deaf and hearing impaired students in Victoria,” Mr Dixon said.
VDEI has also overseen the installation of 67 sound-field amplification systems in 27 Victorian classrooms, and created an Australian-first range of Auslan assessment tools to monitor children’s language and learning progress as they use sign language.
“By up-skilling the workforce, improving the use of technology and creating important research projects, VDEI is already having an impact on providing an inclusive education system that Victoria’s deaf and hearing impaired students deserve,” Mr Dixon said.
VDEI director Gene Reardon said the Institute was proud of its focus on a range of strategies to improve the educational experience of deaf and hearing impaired students.
“We work energetically with our partners, in collaboration with key experts, schools, communities and families to identify evidence that will lead to enhanced practice and deliver improved outcomes for children,” Ms Reardon said.
Since November 2010, the Coalition Government has invested more than $170 million of additional funding into the Program for Students with Disabilities, transport for these students, and made the largest single investment in capital works in special and autistic schools in more than a decade.