Box "The learner and the languages present in school"

Education and Languages, Language Policy

Contents of this section:
Plurilingual and intercultural education as a right

This text locates plurilingual and intercultural education within a rationale concerning the right to education. This involves a change of perspective insofar as schooling is here conceived as having in particular to allow all those engaged in it to exercise the rights to education they possess. Language education, defined here as plurilingual and intercultural, thus becomes that element of the process of education which puts languages in the service of a quality education and in relationship with the general aims of the school and the rights of learners.

The text first emphasises the transversal nature of language education, taking into account the linguistic repertoire of learners and the languages present in the school (language of schooling, and other languages whether taught or not) and their relationship to social uses outside school. It then addresses the relationship between the rights of learners and the different forms of language activity in the school.

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  • 1. General introduction
    • 1.1 The right to language education as a change of perspective
    • 1.2 The transversality of language education
  • 2. Sectors of language activity and the right to education
    • 2.1 General language rights
    • 2.2 Rights concerning language as subject
    • 2.3 Rights concerning language as a medium of instruction for other subjects
    • 2.4 Rights concerning relations between school subjects and between subjects and pupils
Plurilingual and intercultural education as a project

The purpose of this text is basically: - to clarify the concepts of societal multilingualism and individual plurilingualism, in accordance with other texts of the Council of Europe
- to describe the characteristics of plurilingual and intercultural education
- to show that they are ordinary phenomena
- to emphasise their necessity:

  • to make clear the crucial importance of competence in languages with respect to educational and therefore social success
  • to reconstitute the unity of language competence which is fragmented into different school subjects
  • so that, in a multipolar world, knowledge of languages is not reduced to the efficacy of linguistic communication, necessary though this is
  • and so that the learning and use of languages are an experience of diversity, a locus of human communication, and thus contribute in their own way to the development of the individual and of the European citizen.
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  • 1. The multilingualism of societies and the plurilingualism of individuals ?an ordinary situation in Europe
    • 1.1 Every society is multilingual
    • 1.2 Every language is plural
    • 1.3 Every school is a space open to the plurality of languages and cultures
    • 1.4 All education is plurilingual in varying degrees
    • 1.5 Every identity is plural
  • 2. Plurilingual and intercultural education - definition
  • 3. Components of plurilingual and intercultural education
    • 3.1. Language of schooling
    • 3.2. Foreign languages
    • 3.3. The multiple functions of "other" languages
    • 3.4. Other subjects
Plurilingual and intercultural education as a project: Concerning some feasibility conditions for plurilingual and intercultural education

This text addresses some issues related to the feasibility of plurilingual and intercultural education at different levels (national, regional, local) and is directed specifically to deciders at each of these levels. Aspects of feasibility sketched briefly here will be taken up again and dealt with in depth by other texts later. It is however important to begin to consider the minimal conditions and the necessary stages which have to be followed in order to gradually construct a plurilingual and intercultural education.

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  • 1. Official instructions at central level
  • 2. Analysis of the sociolinguistic context
  • 3. Curricular construction
  • 4. Implementation of a plurilingual and intercultural curriculum
  • 5. Teacher education
  • 6. Conclusions
Multicultural Societies, Pluricultural People and the Project of Intercultural Education

Contemporary societies are multicultural and Europe as a whole is multicultural. It was ever thus but the complexity is increasing as a consequence of mobility and migration. It is important to clarify the impact of this societal phenomenon on individuals who are potentially or actually pluricultural as a consequence of experiencing multicultural social life. The threats to social cohesion which increased multiculturalism brings, have to be counter-acted by education for intercultural dialogue which depends on intercultural competence. Compulsory education is thus required to respond to this situation by developing learners?intercultural competence. It can do so through language education which introduces learners to other cultures external or internal to their own society. Educational systems can also give learners access to other cultures and their discourses within the curriculum, i.e. the cultures of the different subjects and the identification with the specific modes of being and perceiving which inhere in each subject and group of subjects, for example in history as a subject and in the social sciences as a whole. The school thus introduces learners to different kinds of culture, a concept that hence needs careful definition.

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  • 1. Complex phenomena, concepts and terminology
  • 2. European societies are multicultural societies
  • 3. European societies are plural societies
  • 4. Pluricultural people with intercultural competence
  • 5. Intercultural dialogue and social cohesion
  • 6. Intercultural education and multicultural societies
Capitalising on, activating and developing plurilingual and pluricultural repertoires for better school integration

This study, as part of the project to produce a European document for the linguistic and educational integration of children and adolescents from migrant backgrounds, aims to shed light on the educational principles, concepts, orientations and goals behind capitalising on the plurilingual repertoires of children from migrant backgrounds at school. At the same time, it aims to provide policymakers and practitioners with practical ways of activating and developing plurality on the basis of respect for persons and needs, as part of an ethical approach geared to commitment and social cohesion.

The study focuses on ways of recognising, developing and exploiting migrant pupils’ plurilingual repertoires and provides links to resources developed in a number of countries and lan¬guages.

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  • 1. Benchmarks and action principles
  • 2. Capitalising on plurality and developing plurilingual and pluricultural repertoires at school
    • 2.1 Acknowledging the legitimacy of mobility/diversity backgrounds and paths
    • 2.2 Constructing and developing plurilingual and pluricultural competence at school
    • 2.3 Forging links between school and environment so as to acknowledge diversity and promote social cohesion
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography and useful websites
Putting the Evidence Back into Evidence-based Policies for Underachieving Students
Introduction (Extract)

Policy-makers in Europe and most other countries around the world have no hesitation in endorsing the principle of evidence-based educational policies. Most would agree that it is particularly important to apply the findings of empirical research to improve the educational performance of socially and economically marginalised students because these students experience disproportionate school failure.

To what extent have recent attempts to implement evidence-based policies been successful? The picture is mixed.

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Languages of schooling: focusing on vulnerable learners

In order to achieve educational success pupils from migrant backgrounds must be more than conversationally fluent in the language of schooling: they must also master the varieties of academic language that constitute the fabric of the different curriculum subjects. Because knowledge is virtually inseparable from the language that embodies it, the project “Languages in Education – Languages for Education” takes the view that all teachers must be language teachers in the sense that they are aware of the specific language demands of their subject(s). This study suggests some of the ways in which this challenge can be met.

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Italian Version

Lingua(e) di scolarizzazione a apprendenti vulnerabili

Version pdf
Cooperation, management and networking: effective ways to promote the linguistic and educational integration of children and adolescents from migrant backgrounds

In contemporary schools, linguistic diversity is a common feature and should be the starting point for the educational activities of educators and teachers. Immigrant minority children usually live bi- or multilingual lives in the host country and bring a multitude of languages and language competences to their educational institutions. This study focuses on ways in which the linguistic integration of bi- and multilingual children and young people can be designed successfully through collaboration among pupils, parents, teachers and other educational experts as well as between schools and other institutions.

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Further Language Policy Division Resources

From linguistic diversity to plurilingual education: Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe, 2007

The aim of the Guide is to offer an analytical instrument which can serve as a reference document for the formulation or reorganisation of language teaching in member states. Its purpose is to provide a response to the need to formulate language policies to promote plurilingualism and diversification in a planned manner so that decisions are coherently linked. Accordingly, the Guide does not promote any particular language education policy but attempts to identify the challenges and possible responses in the light of common principles.

The document is intended for those who influence, formulate and implement language education policy at any level. It presents approaches to the development of policies rather than policies as such, and is designed to accommodate the needs of different education contexts.

The Guide exists in two versions of unequal length to suit the needs of specific groups of readers (the "Main Version" and the "Executive Version").

It constitutes one of the key documents for the development of (national or regional) Language Education Policy Profiles. The Guide is accompanied by a series of Reference Studies.

Detailed Table of Contents of the Main Version
Reference Studies on key policy issues

The Guide for the development of language education poicies in Europe is accompanied by a series of separately published Reference Studies on key policy issues which provide in-depth analysis of key issues mentioned in the Main Version. See also here
List of Studies

Autobiogaphy of Intercultural Encouters, 2009

The Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters has been developed to promote intercultural dialogue. It is a personal tool that encourages users to think about and learn from intercultural encounters that have made a strong impression on them. It is suitable for cross-curricular and general use in formal and non-formal educational contexts.

An intercultural encounter can be an experience between people from different countries, but it can also be an experience with individuals from other cultural backgrounds within the same country ?for example from other regional, linguistic, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Therefore, the Autobiography aims to promote respect for diversity both nationally and across borders.

Other bodies and Useful links


The Framework of Reference for Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures (FREPA) seeks to facilitate the continuous development and enrichment of individual learners’ plurilingual and intercultural competences. As complement to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the European Language Portfolio and the Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe, FREPA offers a comprehensive list of descriptors in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes that pluralistic approaches can develop. The pluralistic approaches reject the “compartmentalised” view of an individual’s linguistic and cultural competence: This competence is not a collection of distinct and separate competences but a plurilingual and pluricultural competence encompassing the full range of the languages available to him. In this way, the development of this competence benefits of all varieties which compose the repertoire of the learners and particularly of the languages taught in schools. In addition, a bank of teaching materials, available online, offers teaching activities in a wide range of languages, that relate to these approaches and aim to develop intercultural and plurilingual competences for all levels of learning.

The Framework is available in English, French, German and Spanish on the website

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