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Sign bilingualism and deaf education

Language policies and attitudes toward multilingualism, as we learned in the preceding sections, differ markedly. This variation, in turn, is ultimately reflected in the advantages or disadvantages attributed to the development and use of two languages at the individual and societal levels, depending on the status of the languages and their users.

Because the educational area is the domain of language policy par excellence the question of whether and how bilingualism is promoted in education is intimately tied to the values agreed upon in a given society. If one of the main aims of school curricula is to provide opportunities for all pupils to learn and to achieve, the question that arises with respect to the education of bilingual learners is whether and how educational institutions respond to their strengths and needs, including those that pertain to their linguistic skills.

Earlier in this work (section, however, we indicated that schools are “ideal” sites for the perpetuation of the monolingual state ideology that is traditionally regarded as a guarantor of social cohesion. We advance therefore the tension that arises between the values of equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes in a given society, on the one hand, and efforts aiming at enculturation of linguistic minorities into the majority language society, on the other hand.

As for bilingual signers, whose bilingualism has been largely ignored, if not suppressed, policies recognising deaf individuals’ human and linguistic capital reflect a change not only in the perception of deafness but also of sign language. We have learned before that the legal recognition of sign language is one of the major topics on the agenda of deaf associations (and related interest groups) together with the demand for its inclusion in deaf education. In the next sections, we will discuss the main aims and variables of sign bilingual education (see Pla- za-Pust 2016). For this purpose, we will provide a brief sketch of the main variables of bilingual education that shall serve as a framework for an assessment of the dimensions of variation of sign bilingual approaches to deaf education.

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