11 Apr 2016

Big step forward for NZ Sign Language

8:53 am on 11 April 2016

Deaf secondary students are studying NCEA achievement standards in New Zealand Sign Language for the first time this year.

Sign Language educators say it is a big step forward for the status of one of the country's official languages and hopes the new standards encourage more hearing students to study it.

Kelston Girls College student Tiare Tukaki-Daniels said the achievement standards were a big improvement on the unit standards that used to be the only option for secondary students studying the language.

"With unit standards it was just a pass or a fail. Now with achievement standards it means I can get different marks. I know whether I am at the achieved level or I'm merit or excellence and then I can improve from there."

Her classmate Kamaile Rimaka also liked the achievement standards.

"I think achievement standards are great and really important because we need to know where we sit in terms of 'am I passing or not', and you can see what you've achieved. Have you got excellence or have you got merit. I can really clearly see what I've achieved within the subject."

The girls' teacher, Sarah Cameron, developed the achievement standards with other teachers from the Kelston and Van Asch Deaf Education Centres.

She said that the introduction of the standards this year were important.

"It's a big deal, for both deaf and hearing students. First and foremost for deaf (people) because they have a right to achieve standards in their own language."

Kelston Deaf Education Centre principal David Foster said he hoped the achievement standards would encourage schools to offer New Zealand Sign Language as a second language for hearing students.

"Now that the standards are in place and achievement standards provide an NCEA pathway we would expect more and more secondary schools to introduce New Zealand Sign Language as a Year 9 option."

Associate principal at the centre, Robyn Neil, said it was exciting to see achievement standards for New Zealand Sign Language listed alongside those of other languages.

"It just lifts the status in the community generally and awareness and along with that comes awareness of deaf culture and valuing deaf people as having their own linguistic minority culture rather than a disability," she said.

The Education Ministry said it was not yet clear how many students would be taking the subject for NCEA this year.

Schools can use achievement standards for levels 1 and 2 this year, and level 3 will be ready from 2017.