We’ve discussed in previous articles that access to a good education is a fundamental right for the deaf community. However, some deaf people seek an education that teaches a meaningful life. Religious education can serve that purpose for deaf people. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages of religion for deaf education. 

The Current State of Education for the Deaf

Creating an education system for the deaf community was always a struggle. There was a lot of stigma surrounding the idea of deafness in general. Societies worldwide wanted to integrate deaf students into the regular classroom. There was a belief that learning sign language affected cognitive development, which was proven false. Still, there was a continuous push to teach deaf children lip reading. It had no benefit for them and impacted their school experience.

Fast forward a couple of centuries, and progress for deaf education continues. The deaf schools that opened their doors to learners still operate today. Local governments have also made it mandatory for schools to implement programs for deaf children to receive special education. While none of this is perfect, it has positively impacted the deaf community.

Deaf Community and Religion

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The deaf community follows religion with the same intentions as any person would. Some seek religion for clarity and a purpose in life, while others want to add structure to their life. The main reason for practicing religion is to develop spiritually and gain morals to navigate this world. 

Religion has also created micro-communities for deaf people to feel more connected with one another. The bonds between one another become stronger through worshipping together. 

The Purpose of Religious Education

What is the difference between formal education and attending a religious school? In a sense, the answer is simple. Public education has a separation between church and state. However, some aspects of religion are in a historical context. Formal education teaches the most basic of life skills, but some feel it might lack ethics.

Religious School and Integration of General Studies

That’s where religious education comes in. Religious schools in primary, secondary, and higher education are more accessible to students. They go far beyond the general subjects taught to get your foot in the door. They also focus on developing a moral compass. The fusion of religious education aids the spiritual development of students. Having this curriculum in school allows the students to create deeper meanings with their experiences in life.

Integrating religion into regular classes introduces challenging moral questions for students, while the formal school would strictly teach critical and analytical skills. Educators at these institutions believe that teaching through a religious context can strengthen the student’s intuitive thinking skills. Therefore, each individual can live a better a more pious life through the eyes of God(s). Most importantly, they can apply religious beliefs in a local and global context that is more diverse and respectful of the world.

Religion and Personal Development

Religion focuses on personal development. That’s another advantage of attending a religious school. For deaf people, having a community provides a sense of comfort to the struggles of daily life. Religion creates that concept of a tight bond between others, which contributes to the overall well-being and happiness of people. 

Students must grow within the education system and become better people. Religious education provides an excellent foundation for societal values. It helps them differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. The religious context creates a more positive outlook from practicing faith, which develops better values and the ability to make decisions. 

How Religious Schools are being Inclusive

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There are religious deaf schools worldwide, funded by donors to provide a well-rounded education with a safe and religious environment. All in the context of teaching the local form of sign language. 

Religious Boarding Schools for the Deaf

One part of the world that is particularly interesting is South East Asia, where a learning disability or being deaf is disadvantaged in schools and their community. In Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, they are giving students an opportunity for formal education and a sense of belonging.

In some places, boarding schools are a thing of the past, but in Indonesia, it’s part of the culture. Students are often sent to Islamic boarding schools to learn about Islam. However, deaf students didn’t get the same opportunity until recently. Abu Khafi founded a boarding school in 2019 after becoming close to the deaf community and having no access to quality Islamic education. 

Part of the curriculum of this school is to memorize the Koran by heart in Arabic sign language, which proves difficult for deaf students. However, the school creates positive reinforcement and the sense that everyone shares the same struggles. It motivates them to keep going.

The school also has classes in general subjects like math, science, history, and foreign language, which pushes deaf students to a more promising future in higher education. 

Beyond the general subjects, the greatest impact of this school is boosting the self-esteem of hundreds of deaf students. Zainal Arifin, a student at the boarding school, says that he is safe and welcomed at a place specifically for people like him. He no longer feels the shame of using sign language in public or in isolation, because he can’t communicate with his hearing family. Through religious education, the teachers and Islam has instilled the belief that he should embrace the way God made him. 

What Does the Deaf Community Gain?

There are several things gained from religious education. It promotes a pious life and living more meaningfully in the eyes of God(s). Their advantages have already proven the ability to bring a positive outlook to society and make better decisions. More importantly, religious education heavily promotes self-exploration. Deaf people who feel isolated or lost can benefit from this. Religious education can lead them to realize God(s) made them just the way they are, and there is no shame in that. 

Curious about how religion is shaping the deaf community? Learn more at https://www.unspokenasl.com/ 

Thumbnail Photo Credit to: Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-ceramic-plate-with-food-8383491/