Inspiring Students At Wangsel Institute For The Deaf In Bhutan To ‘Speak Through Art’


Hiroko Masuda, a Japanese volunteer teaches art to deaf children.

Students displaying their artworks. (Source: Facebook/Wangsel Institute for the Deaf)


By Staff Reporter | Kuensel

The small hallway of the Wangsel Institute in Paro is quiet. The only noise comes from the footsteps of teachers climbing the wooden stairs. For people who love art, this is the perfect place to be.

Paper art, painting and paper crafts greet visitors as one enter the premises. Hiroko Masuda, a Japanese volunteer is a teacher here. She teaches art to deaf children. Two young students greet her at the top of the stairs. They hand over their work. Masuda hugs them and signals them for a photograph.


Ms Hiroko Masuda sets up her students’ works

for display as a guest looks on.

Source: Facebook/Wangsel Institute for the Deaf


“They love drawing,” says Masuda as she commends the students’ artwork, made as gifts for their parents when they break for winter vacation.

Challenges faced by Hiroko Masuda

If teaching art is difficult, teaching it to the hearing impaired children is even more challenging. But Masuda is enjoying her work. “Most of the students are interested in art,” she said.

Masuda knows sign language, but the problem is that the Japanese sign language is different from the Bhutanese sign language, which the Wangsel students are familiar with.

“When communication is bad, students lose concentration,” she explained. But the volunteer has a solution. She asks Bhutanese teachers to help her communicate in sign language.



Students learn via sign language at the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf.

Source: Facebook/Wangsel Institute for the Deaf


Masuda’s colleague, Nidup helps her communicate with the students and the two teachers conduct joint teaching sessions.

Nidup says that the sign language they use at the institute was developed by researchers at the institute with the help of a Thai linguist.

The institute also has an art club, but it has no dedicated art teacher except for an instructor for traditional painting.

How Hiroko Masuda trained her students to produce creative artworks

“Masuda has been very helpful. She is experienced and came with a lot of ideas to engage students. Students look forward to her classes.”

The volunteer is also proud of her students who are becoming more creative. She is skilled at drawing the attention of those who are not interested and she makes art fun by engaging them in artwork that involves action.

“The boys now love to make paper football and Sumo wrestling,” she said with pride.

The works of the students are displayed on the notice board. One can find paper Sumo wrestlers, characters from children’s storybooks, magical doors and pop-up cards, to name a few.


Source: Facebook/Wangsel Institute for the Deaf


“There is a sense of competition among the students,” said Masuda.

The volunteer believes that art improves the imagination of children and their creativity skills. When asked to draw on their own, Masuda said that most students drew villages, mountains, prayer flags and chortens.

“This shows that they miss their village,” she said. All the students stay at the institute’s hostels.

Masuda, who will return to Japan next year, said that she fell in love with Bhutan.

“It is a very colourful country, well suited for the artist,” she said.

“The traditional art on buildings, the lhakhangs and dzongs are very beautiful.”

On the importance of art, the volunteer said that it could come in handy for the hearing impaired children.

“Other students could excel in subjects like science and maths, but for the hearing impaired, they need skills together with these subjects. Art is one.”


This article first appeared in kuensel  and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.

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