Deaf Education Beyond the Western World is a groundbreaking, extensive—431 pages—and valuable collection of scholarship on a much-neglected area of disability studies. Part of Oxford's series "Perspectives on Deafness," the book consists of a preface followed by twenty-one essays. Each essay includes references, and the book has an index.

The first chapter, co-authored by the book's three editors and titled "Deaf Education Beyond the Western World: An Introduction," sets out the issue, i.e., that most research and publication on deafness takes place in the Western world. The authors define the phrase "beyond the Western world," and explain their choice of the terms western/nonwestern as opposed to the more current designations of global North/global South. They note that "any choice made in categorization can be considered a politically incorrect choice, or a choice leaving room for discontent" (2). These terms describe the regions' development in deaf education, not their overall political and economic development. They summarize the prevalence of hearing loss in early childhood in the nonwestern world, explain the pattern of disability and poverty, set out international policy frameworks, define inclusive education, trace the recent history of development cooperation, and advocate the need for deaf education beyond the Western world. Capital-D Deaf culture is in use but not standard in the nonwestern world. This chapter introduces DHH for "deaf and hard-of-hearing" (1); all subsequent chapters use this acronym, and I use it here. Expressions that are fading in the Western world, e.g., "deaf schools," "the deaf," are standard in the scholarship of some countries in the developing world, and I repeat them here without comment as they appear in the chapters.

Each chapter includes an overview of its geographical area, a summary of the background and current state of education, a description of government policy, and recommendations for improvement. The chapters do not follow this structure rigidly: they vary in emphasis, detail, and length. This variation within the structure is appropriate: as Dan Goodley and Leslie Swartz have pointed out in their 2016 essay "The Place of Disability," a universalist approach to disability is not useful in the developing world. Among other differences between scholarship in the Western and nonwestern world, for example, they note that in developing countries, "a key way in which disability is understood globally is in terms of religion" (2702-2706).

The next seven chapters, 2-9, cover Sub-Saharan Africa. The narration begins in West Africa with Julius Abiola Ademokoya's "Contemporary Practices in Deaf Education in Nigeria," the second chapter. Ademokoya begins with a historical overview of deaf education, with its roots in Christian missions. He then names some of the early challenges such as prevalent superstitions about deafness. The chapter goes on to summarize current practices, demography, and administrative procedures. Because Nigeria is so multilingual, Nigerian Sign Language is not standardized, so American Sign Language (ASL) is uniform in the schools for the deaf.

Chapter 3, "The Evolution of Deaf Education in Namibia" by Beausetha J. Bruwer and Pamela J. February, places deaf education in the context of the etiology of deafness, pointing out that most deafness in Namibia results from heredity, disease, and infection. Namibian Sign Language "is considered the mother tongue or first language of deaf learners. It is considered the language that identifies the Deaf community and transmits Deaf culture" (36). The following section begins with the Icelandic International Development Agency's work in 2006. The authors then describe the Centre for Communication and Deaf Studies, which became operational in 2010.

Chapter 4 is "Deaf Education in Ghana," by Alexander Mills Oppong and Daniel Fobi. After an overview of Ghana, an "English-speaking country that is fairly advanced in the development of formal education" for deaf people, Oppong and Fobi discuss preschool education for deaf students (53). The next section, on basic education for DHH students, sets the stage for a summary of senior high education, i.e., upper secondary school. The authors then turn to tertiary education, "a recent development" for deaf students in Ghana (64). A section on audiological testing precedes discussions of job opportunities and legislation and advocacy.

Peter Oracha Adoyo and Everline Nyokabi Maina are the authors of the fifth chapter, "Practices and Challenges in Deaf Education in Kenya." The chapter opens with the observation that "hearing loss was, and in some communities still is, associated with witchcraft, the breaking of taboos, or punishment by God" (73). Adoyo and Maina then move to the prevalence of hearing loss. Issues of work and employment, curricula, and KSL (Kenyan Sign Language) follow.

Tadesse Abera Tedla's "Deaf Education in Ethiopia" is the sixth chapter. Tedla summarizes sign language (American Sign Language was the first, followed by National Amharic Sign Language), teacher training, and sign language interpretation services in Ethiopia to lay the groundwork for a discussion of the challenges of deaf education, including social, behavioral, facility, and communication challenges.

Chapter 7 is Bernadatte Namirembe's "Educating Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Learners in Inclusive Classrooms in Tanzania." The chapter begins by pointing out that "in Tanzania, as in many other developing countries, the inclusion of … DHH learners in mainstream education is a challenge, since issues such as access to language, teacher training, DHH students' ability to cope with hearing peers, and social integration can be constraining" (109). Tanzanian Sign Language varies regionally, mixed with home sign and remnants of sign languages of various NGOs.

"Deaf Education Policies in Zimbabwe," by Martin Musengi, comprises chapter 8. Musengi summarizes attitudes to disability (Zimbabwe is disability-friendly), and traces the development of formal education for DHH students since the mid-twentieth-century. Government policy follows, with sections on access to instruction and assessment, the place of Zimbabwe Sign Language relative to technical subjects, and teacher qualifications.

With the ninth chapter, the focus shifts to the Middle East and North Africa. "Educational Challenges for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children in Morocco," co-authored by Abdelhadi Soudi and Corinne Vinopol, names seven compounding issues that result from a lack of coordination among the stakeholders: the first of these issues involves a lack of a unified pedagogical philosophy, including how to teach Moroccan Sign Language. A summary of an international collaboration between Moroccan and U.S. researchers follows.

Chapter 10 is "Deaf Education in Jordan: Current Situation, Obstacles, and Future Aspirations," by Eman Al-Zboon. Al-Zboon's opening sentence is "Jordan is now the leading nation in the Middle East in terms of deaf education" (177). He goes on to discuss provision of services, prevalence of hearing loss, tertiary education, evaluation and assessment, early childhood education, and sign language (LIU—Jordanian Sign Language—is now in use, though there are efforts to develop a unified Arabic sign language).

Leaving the MENA Region, the next chapters turn to Southeast, South, and East Asia. Chapter 11 is Nguyen Thi Hoa and James Woodward's "Education and Services for Deaf People in Viet Nam." A survey of Vietnamese sign languages, of which there are three, begins the chapter. Next are summaries of the school systems, along with overviews of specialized certificates for sign language analysis, teaching, and interpretation. "Towards the Future" includes five recommendations for improvement, only one of which—providing sign language interpreters in inclusive education programs—is complex and expensive.

M. Shyamani Hettiarachchi, Dumini K. de Silva, Thilanka Wijesinghe, Brayan Susantha, Geshani Amila, Pubhodha Sarani, and Mohamed Rasak authored "'Free but not Fair': A Critical Review of Access to Equal Education for Deaf Children in Sri Lanka," the twelfth chapter. The authors begin by emphasizing the value that Sri Lankans have always placed on education. A brief history of education policy since the 1940s follows. An overview of Sri Lankan Sign Language precedes a description of the Asia Pacific Sign Linguistics Research and Training Program. The authors provide a summary of local "insider" research in the schools.

Chapter 13 moves to East Asia, with "Deaf Education in Taiwan: History, Policies, Practices, and Outcomes" by Chun Jung Liu, Hsiu Tan Liu, and Jean F. Andrews. The authors trace the history of Taiwan's deaf education from the Qing Dynasty (seventeenth to twentieth centuries). Japanese Sign Language arrived at the end of the nineteenth century; both Chinese and Japanese Sign Language were in use in the schools until 1968. Taiwanese Sign Language also exists, along with Signed Chinese. "Today, Taiwan does not have an official communication policy for deaf students" (241).

Chapter 14 returns to Southeast Asia with Kalyani Mandke and Prerna Chandekar's "Deaf Education in India." The authors summarize screening, intervention, and technology, and then move to sign language. While Indian Sign Language varies regionally, it "is indeed a language and is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent" (274). The authors then describe the National Association for the Deaf and the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center.

Gu Dingqian, Liu Ying, and He Xirong turn back to East Asia in the fifteenth chapter, "Deaf Education and the Use of Sign Language in Mainland China." The authors open with the statement that "China has one of the largest deaf populations in the world" (285), then take up China's policy on deaf education and language teaching. They describe Chinese Sign Language, with its many local variants. The Chinese government and organizations of deaf people are researching the varieties of sign language "in order to form a national standardized scheme of general sign language and particularly to promote the use of this general sign language in deaf education" (296).

The book now moves to the Americas, with "Best Practices and Challenges of Deaf Education in Mexico," the sixteenth chapter, by Mercedes Obregón Rodríguez and Maribel Valero Weeke. The history of deaf education, inclusion, and Mexican Sign Language (LSM) begins the chapter. The authors state that "without quality education, equality will hardly be more than wishful thinking, and if the right of deaf students is going to ever be acknowledged, sign language environments as special learning strategies must be devised to address their specific needs" (309), but go on to observe that almost no such schools exist in the public sector. The authors conclude by emphasizing the many challenges that remain, e.g., that "DHH youths may have spent years at school but continue to be functional illiterates with very few possibilities of being able to participate in society in a dignified and wholesome way" (320).

Chapter 17 is "When 'Inclusion' Jeopardizes the Learning Opportunities of Deaf Students: The Case of Chile," by María Rosa Lissi, Christian Sebastián, Martín Vergara, and Cristián Iturriaga. "Deaf education's first steps were taken early in Chile, around the middle of the nineteenth century," the chapter begins, "but systematic research on the topic started almost 150 years later" (323). Many schools for the deaf use Chilean Sign Language, but exist only until the eighth grade, at which point DHH students are forced into "regular schools, which most of the time are not prepared to offer them educational opportunities that take into account their particular characteristics and needs" (327). The conclusion outlines the problems resulting from the perception of deaf people in Chile as objects of pity rather than full citizens.

"Deaf Education in Brazil," the eighteenth chapter, is subtitled "Contexts, Challenges, and Perspectives." The authors, Cátia de Azevedo Fronza, Lodenir Becker Karnopp, and Marjon Tammenga-Helmantel, outline the challenges that deaf people face such as the lack of acceptance of sign language. Differences between Brazilian Sign Language (also called Libras) and Portuguese compound this problem. "Challenges and Perspectives" includes the need for bilingual education and advancement of the linguistic environment in deaf education.

Chapters 19 and 20 turn to Eastern Europe. "Deaf Education in Croatia: Challenges and Perspectives," by Iva Hrastinski, is Chapter 19. Hrastinski includes the very interesting section "All Things Deaf: Community and Culture," in which she describes "a small but vibrant Deaf community and a rich tradition of Deaf-related activities" (367). A section discussing the language and literacy skills of DHH students includes her observation that "Croatian Sign language has become more prominent in society due to the publication of linguistic … research studies" (373).

Chapter 20, "More Alike than Different: Educational and Social Aspirations and Paths to Successful Adulthood of Polish Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Adolescents," is by Ewa Domagala-Zysk, who writes that "the main communication problem of children with hearing loss is that they lack full access to the ethnic language or any other spoken language" (382). Polish Sign Language is one option of many; other choices include manually coded Polish and Cued Speech, a visual system that is not sign language.

The twenty-first and final chapter, "Deaf Education Beyond the Western World: Knowledge Exchange, Best Practices, and Challenges" is, like the first one, co-authored by the volume's three editors. The authors remind us that international exchange has always been important in deaf history. They trace commonalities among the chapters, then highlight the recent change on a global scale brought about by the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). The editors observe that twenty-first century technology facilitates international cooperation to promote inclusion. "It is not only the classroom," the authors conclude, "that is in need of greater inclusion" (411).

Especially considering the number of essays and the range of coverage, the editors took great care with the volume's presentation. I noticed only one typo. There is no flimsy chapter: the quality is high throughout. The volume is oriented to the social sciences rather than humanities; the essays will be useful, individually and collectively, for policy makers, NGOs, historians, disability studies scholars, and practitioners of both deaf education and special education. A contribution to studies of disability in the global South, the collection is at the same time a contribution to Deaf Studies and Deaf History. The references are extensive and are an excellent resource in themselves.

I offer two small criticisms of this impressive catalogue of research and information. First, more attention to rurality could have strengthened many of the essays. Most developing countries are predominantly rural, and as Alexandra Gartell and Elizabeth Hoban have pointed out, the intersection of rurality and disability—the "spatial boundedness" (9750)—has deep implications for the lived experiences of people with disabilities. The second small criticism: a map, or even several maps, would have been very useful for any reader not immediately familiar with nonwestern geography.

In the book's preface, the editors state their hopes that the volume will encourage "more researchers in more countries to continue investigating the learning environment of deaf learners and develop evidence-based foundations for further improvement of deaf education for all deaf children, leaving no one behind" (viii). Indeed, perhaps the largest contribution of this excellent new volume is that its presence highlights the absence of research into education for DHH people in other developing countries. Deaf Education Beyond the Western World will serve as a model and an inspiration for additional research.

Works Cited

  • Gartell, Alexandra and Elizabeth Hoban. "'Locked in Space': Rurality and the Politics of Location." Disability in the Global South: The Critical Handbook. Ed. Shaun Grech and Karen Soldatic. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016. Kindle edition, Loc. 9726-10120.
  • Goodley, Dan and Leslie Swartz. "The Place of Disability." Disability in the Global South: The Critical Handbook. Ed. Shaun Grech and Karen Soldatic. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2016. Kindle edition, Loc. 2428-2864.
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