From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 4/7/09:
Meisei Gakuen--the first school for hearing-impaired children to conduct its classes entirely in Japanese Sign Language--has been raising money to establish a middle school division, which would allow its students to complete their compulsory education without changing schools.
Meisei Gakuen, located in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, opened last April after receiving accreditation from the metropolitan government. The accreditation came after the central government designated the capital a deregulated structural reform zone.
Families with deaf children had long fought for the creation of a school that would conduct its classes in the sign language they use at home. Traditionally, schools for the hearing-impaired have not used sign language, instead opting to teach lip-reading and approximated speech with the help of hearing aids.
However, this approach often can prove confusing to hearing-impaired children. One classic example is that of the lip movements for "tamago" and "tabako." Though our mouths move in the same way when pronouncing these words, their meanings are completely different--egg and tobacco, respectively.
When children are taught only to communicate through approximated sounds and lip-reading, they often find it difficult to understand what they are being taught, and spend most of their time trying to keep up with what the teacher is saying.
At Meisei Gakuen this year, there are 15 preschoolers and 28 in grade school, seven of whom are in their final year of primary school.
To apply for the establishment of a middle school division, the school must have enough capital to operate for three years, according to metropolitan government regulations. If the school wishes to begin middle school classes by next school year, it must apply by June this year. To do so, it must raise another 30 million yen.
One supporter has been the Japan East Rugby Football Union. When the final game of the All-Japan Championship was held at the end of February, players from Eastern Quiet Typhoon, a deaf rugby team, joined a group of Meisei Gakuen students to distribute leaflets soliciting contributions.
"We're completely behind the school," 24-year-old player Kosei Samejima said.
"It's hard to study under the lip-reading approach," said Keijun Sasaki, one of the school's sixth-graders. "I really hope we get a middle school."
"I have a much easier time talking with my friends in sign language," said Sasaki's classmate, Nanami Miyasaka. "I want to study with them in middle school, too."
For more on Meisei Gakuen, click here and here.