Education Journal


2011.第39卷第1–2期(Vol. 39 Nos. 1–2).pp. 139–156


Early Deaf Education in Hong Kong and Its Relation With the Origin of Hong Kong Sign Language

施婉萍、路駿怡、盧瑞華、朱君毅(Felix SZE, Connie LO, Lisa LO, & Kenny CHU)





Through reviewing existing documentation and conducting interviews, this article reconstructs the history of deaf education in Hong Kong in the early days, investigates how the development of Hong Kong Sign Language was related to the language policies of different deaf schools, and finds out deaf people’s view on the issue of medium of instruction. According to the information collected, formal deaf education in Hong Kong began in 1935 with the establishment of the first deaf school. Although that school prohibited the use of signs, deaf children spontaneously developed a gestural system of communication among themselves due to the pressing needs for communication. This gestural communication system can be viewed as an early form of sign language. In the postwar period, the number of deaf schools gradually increased. Some of them introduced the Nanjing/Shanghai variety of Chinese Sign Language, which influenced the subsequent development of Hong Kong Sign Language. Through our interviews, we found that the majority of the deaf interviewees, whether they graduated from oral or signing schools, felt that the use of sign language could enhance their learning and that if they could turn back time, they wished their hearing teachers could use sign language as the medium of instruction.

Keywords: education of deaf children in Hong Kong; Hong Kong Sign Language; medium of instruction; origin of sign language