Shyamani Hettiarachchi is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Disability Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. She is a speech and language therapist and dramatherapist by profession. Her research interests include the intersectionality between culture, disability and gender, inclusive education, access to education and the effectiveness of linguistically and culturally appropriate intervention.
The first special school in Sri Lanka opened over a hundred years ago in 1912 as the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind. Education access has been promoted and democratized through a range of progressive policies strengthening compulsory education between 5-14 years and tuition-free education for all from kindergarten to university level. In spite of policies and practices, students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing accessing education through Sri Lankan Sign Language have lagged behind other students from accessing higher education. Overall, very few of these students successfully pass either the Ordinary Level or the Advanced Level examination, the latter which determines entry into university. This presentation explores this mismatch between education policy and education attainment, comparing education success (or the lack thereof) with students from similar countries in the South Asian and Asia Pacific region. It offers potential explanations for the current state of education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Sri Lanka and will share recommendations gathered through multi-stakeholder discussions on promoting educational access and success for all.