The situation of deaf education in Chile

Valeria Herrera, Aníbal Puente, Jesús M. Alvarado

Resultado de la investigación: Contribución a los tipos de informe/libroCapítulorevisión exhaustiva

1 Cita (Scopus)


THE HISTORY of deaf education in Chile goes back over 150 years (see Caiceo, 1988). Chile was the first Latin American country to open a residential school for deaf children: the Escuela de Sordo-Mudos (School for the Deaf and Mute), founded in the city of Santiago on October 27, 1852, during the presidency of Manuel Montt. Eliseo Schieroni, a former teacher of the Deaf in Milan, was the school's first director. The first subjects taught in this school were reading, writing, Spanish grammar, arithmetic, religion, and book binding. The school continues its work today under the name Escuela Anne Sullivan (Anne Sullivan School) and is still teaching with the traditional oral method. In 1854, a second residential school for the deaf was founded in Santiago, this one a school for girls. The students studied reading, writing, Spanish grammar, arithmetic, religion, sewing, and embroidery. This girls' residential school was closed in 1877 and reopened in 1885 under the tutelage of the religious congregation of El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd). The Instituto de Sordo-Mudos (Institute for the Deaf and Mute) was created in 1889 with the goal of educating deaf children in Chile and preparing teachers to work in special schools. The school's philosophy dictated that "spoken language and lip reading methods shall be adopted exclusively. The signed communication system is prohibited and exercise of the auditory organ shall be applied whenever possible" (Caiceo, 1988, p. 48). This philosophy reflected the Congress of Milan agreements of 1880, which were put into effect across the country, strictly regulating the education of the Deaf population. The Educational Reform of 1927 marked the beginning of a second stage in the history of deaf education, which lasted from 1927 to 1964. This reform obliged the Chilean state, for the first time ever, to maintain "live-in schools for poor children, weak children, children with organic inferiorities, and abnormal or mentally retarded children" (Caiceo, 1988, p. 48). With the passing of Decree Number 653 in 1929, special education became part of the Chilean Educational System. In 1932, one of the 20th century's most emblematic schools for the deaf was created in Santiago, the Escuela de Sordos La Purísima deaf school directed by the Franciscan nuns of the Immaculate Conception. The nuns imported the oral education method developed in Spain and applied it in Chile in its entirety, its advantages along with its disadvantages. One of the system's most pernicious aspects that should be mentioned is its systematic rejection of the use of signs as a means of communication among deaf students, a rejection based on the argument that this form of communication is more appropriate for monkeys than for humans (Demartini & Letelier, 2006). Despite this stance, the school was highly prestigious in the community and also offered professional training for students. The school finally closed in 1998 because of serious economic problems. In 1958, Dr. Jorge Otte Gabler created the Instituto de la Sordera (Institute of Deafness), offering professional training to young deaf people. Workshops that were taught included carpentry, clothes-making, cooking, and much later in the mid-1990s, computer typing. In 1974, the Department of Special Education at the University of Chile (now the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, or Metropolitan University of Education Sciences) created the Centro de Educación, Experimentación e Investigación Dr. Jorge Otte Gabler (The Dr. Jorge Otte Gabler Center for Education, Experimentation and Investigation), offering special education for deaf children from preschool through the sixth year of primary education. The two institutions merged in 1998, and the new administration decided to close the professional workshops and, instead, provide education from preschool through the eighth year of primary education. Currently, the Escuela Especial Dr. Jorge Otte Gabler (Dr. Jorge Otte Gabler School) acts as an internship site for future teachers of the deaf trained at the Metropolitan University of Education Sciences and is a leader in the implementation of bilingual-bicultural educational models at a national level. Nevertheless, this pioneering experience was not the norm during the 1960s, when special schools for the deaf based on the Congress of Milan agreements of 1880, that is, based on the exclusive teaching of oral language, were opened across the country. The creation of the Specialist Teacher in Special Education degree at the University of Chile in 1964 marked the beginning of a third stage in the history of Deaf education that continues to the present day. In 1965, the government of Eduardo Frei Montalva passed an Educational Reform that proposed a series of changes. An advisory commission was formed whose mission was to formulate measures to solve problems relating to special education. The Department of Special Education was created within the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), giving greater administrative power and institutional legitimacy to this educational subsystem. In 1966, the University of Chile began to offer specialized studies in auditory and language disorders with the goal of training specialist teachers for deaf students. In 1974, during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the MINEDUC formed Commission Number 18, presided over by Dr. Luis Bravo Valdivieso. The commission's task was to analyze the problems surrounding special education in the country. The commission's work resulted in the elaboration of study plans and programs, the creation of separate groups in regular primary schools, the presence of technical cabinets in special schools, and the creation of psychopedagogic bodies. The commission also proposed offering incentives for the creation of private special schools (Godoy, Meza, & Salazar, 2004). The systematic incorporation of the first deaf students in the regular education system began in the early part of the 1980s. Separate evaluation methods and exemptions from certain subjects in the study plan (generally English language) were implemented to facilitate deaf students' access to education. In 1981, the Supreme Exempt Decree Number 15 approved the first Planes y Programas de Estudio para la Educación Especial en Trastornos Auditivos (Study Plans and Programs for the Special Education of Auditive Disorders), which had a marked clinical focus. New study plans and programs were created in 1990, maintaining a focus on treatment and rehabilitation of hearing loss, to the detriment of the teaching of normal coursework. These programs are still in effect today. With the return of democracy to Chile in 1990, the state is involved in legislation involving the disabled population and has passed a series of laws and decrees. Law Number 19.284 on the Full Social Integration of Disabled Persons was passed in 1994. This law created the Fondo Nacional de la Discapacidad (FONADIS; National Disability Fund), an autonomous public service related to the state through the Ministry of National Planning. Its mission is to contribute to the social integration of and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities through the efficient administration of financial resources allotted to it for that purpose. These legislative advances have not materialized in practice, however, because the curricular reform initiated in 1996, which implemented new curricular frameworks at the preschool, primary, and secondary levels, did not take special education into account. Educational integration policies were developed between 1998 and 2003 and included teacher training, increased subsidies, educational integration projects, etc. A decisive moment in the history of the Deaf community in Chile was the creation of the Confederación Nacional de Sordos en Chile (National Confederation of the Deaf in Chile) in 2002. After 50 years of division and long periods of struggle in Chile, this confederation has unified the country's Deaf community in one single, national institution. In 2005, the MINEDUC presented the Nueva Política Nacional de Educación Especial (New National Policy for Special Education; MINEDUC, 2005b), whose strategic principles for the period from 2006 to 2010 are to • increase access to education, • improve curricula and educational administration, • improve educational integration and diversity, • strengthen the capacity of special schools, • promote family participation, • improve teachers' and teaching professionals' training in special education, • increase financing, • reinforce the MINEDUC's technical teams, and • increase awareness of and dialogue on disabilities.

Idioma originalInglés
Título de la publicación alojadaDeaf People Around the World
EditorialGallaudet University Press
Número de páginas15
ISBN (versión impresa)9781563684104
EstadoPublicada - 2009

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