Deaf people to have opportunity to teach at primary level for first time

New pathway to Irish Sign Language teaching degree launched at DCU

Deaf people will have the opportunity to become primary-school teachers for students with hearing impairments under a new teaching degree.

The new Bachelor of Education in Irish Sign Language at Dublin City University is the first programme of its kind in Ireland and will admit its first students in September.

Significantly, the new degree will bypass the higher-level Irish language requirement, which has been a barrier for many deaf students.

Instead, it will be replaced with an entry requirement at a similar level in Irish Sign Language.


The entry criteria will also be less stringent in terms of Leaving Cert grades required and graduates will be qualified to teach in the deaf education sector.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said the programme has received special funding aimed at increasing access to initial teacher education for students with disabilities.

Applications for the new course are being invited through the CAO process ahead of the February 1st closing date.

“This new degree programme for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to become teachers is a hugely important step towards ensuring increased access and inclusion for all in the classroom,” Mr McHugh said.

“It will enable deaf children who use Irish Sign Language in primary school to fully access the curriculum by having teachers who are fluent ISL users.

A total of six places will be available initially, with subsequent intakes of students scheduled for September 2023 onwards.

The four-year, full-time undergraduate course also includes a 30-week school placement.


While entry to the course is exclusively for members of the deaf community who wish to become primary-school teachers working in the deaf education sector, core modules will be delivered along with hearing peers.

Some deaf education-specific modules will be made available as electives to hearing student-teachers.

Dr Anne Looney, executive dean at DCU's institute of education said that traditionally the languages needed to enter primary teaching have been English and Irish.

“Now ISL gets its full recognition, and equal status as a path to primary teaching,” she said.

Until now there has been no entry route to primary teacher education for someone who communicates through ISL and cannot meet the minimum entry requirement for Irish at Leaving Cert level.

Education for deaf pupils is primarily through deaf schools and special classes, though many are also in mainstream classes.

At schools for the deaf, there are typically between six and eight students in each class, usually with mixed types of communication such as ISL and lip-reading.

At present, these classes are taught by a hearing teacher who may have an additional non-teaching staff member with ISL to translate.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent