3. The 4th ECML medium-term programme 2012-2015
- The policy context
- Synergies with the Council of Europe’s Language Policy Division
- The rationale for the ECML programme 2012-2015
- The programme scheme
- The ECML long-term vision
- The overarching aim: Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education
3.1 The policy context
The Council of Europe aims at maintaining and enhancing linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe and promoting learning and use of languages as a means to support intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and democratic citizenship, and as an important economic asset in a modern knowledge-based society. The Council of Europe’s efforts in this respect are well illustrated by the development of such reference documents and tools as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001) and the European Language Portfolio (ELP), conventions such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and policy documents such as the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue “Living together as equals in dignity”, the Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe (Council of Europe/Language Policy Division, 2007), and the recent Recommendation (2008)7 on The use of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the promotion of plurilingualism (Council of Europe, 2008.
The European Union shares these aims and its support for linguistic diversity in Europe is reflected among others in such policy documents as COM(2008) 566: Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment and the 2008 Resolution of the Council of the European Union on a European strategy for multilingualism.
The European efforts are coherent with the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2001 and in its Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted in 2005.
The Council of Europe promotes strongly the notion of plurilingualism, an individual ability to develop competences in and use more than one language, as an important human value.
In the Council’s work, as reflected in the documents and tools included on the on-line Platform of Resources and References for Plurilingual and Intercultural Education developed and launched recently by the Language Policy Division in consultation with all 47 member states – adequate development of language competences is viewed as a pre-requisite for unrestricted and fair access to good quality education. This, in turn, constitutes the necessary basis for ensuring social cohesion, promoting democratic citizenship, fostering intercultural dialogue and managing migration – priorities specified by the Warsaw Summit 2005 aimed at building a more humane and inclusive Europe. The long-term vision of the contribution of the ECML and the outline for the Centre’s next medium-term programme build on these policy concepts and, in a synergetic way, aim at developing inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogic approaches for the classroom level.
3.2 Synergies with the Council of Europe’s Language Policy Division
In 2010 the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe celebrates the 50th anniversary of its work in the area of languages. Amongst the major policy planning instruments developed by the Division are the Common European Framework of Reference of Languages (CEFR), the European Language Portfolio (ELP) and the Guide for the Development of Language Education Policies in Europe. These and other instruments of the Division are driving forces of major developments in language education in Europe and provide key references of ECML project work.
The Division’s current project on ‘Language policies and the right to education for social inclusion 2010-2014’ expands the scope of consideration beyond the domain of foreign modern languages by including languages of schooling – learning, teaching and assessment of languages taught as school subjects, language competences required for other school subjects – language across curriculum – and regional, minority and migration languages. With this new instrument the Language Policy Division once more draws the attention to the needs of the individual learner, underlining that access to education and success at school heavily depend on language competences. Some learners may be disadvantaged at school because their competences do not match the school’s expectations: children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, children from migrant families, or children whose first language is a regional or a minority language.
An adequate command of the language(s) of schooling is crucial to success at school and social advancement. A major challenge for today’s education systems is then to support learners in acquiring adequate language and intercultural competences which will enable them to develop as strong individuals and operate effectively and successfully as citizens. Regional, minority and migration languages are equally part of this project including work on the linguistic integration of adult migrants. They are a valuable component of the plurilingual repertoires of the learners when they enter the school; as plurilingualism is a condition to participate in democratic and social processes in multilingual societies. The Language Policy Division’s education project aims at providing policy guidelines and reference tools designed to assist the learners in developing their language repertoires in a lifelong learning perspective. For example, a concept paper and supporting toolkit has been developed to facilitate the education of children with migrant backgrounds.
3.3 The rationale for the ECML Programme 2012-2015
The rationale for the next ECML programme has been developed in complementarity with the other Council of Europe units and addresses the following key issues raised during the thorough consultation process with the ECML partners and stakeholders . These issues and concerns are targeted by the ECML programme.
Context and challenges:
- Linguistic and cultural diversity combined with migration and mobility characterises contemporary European societies. This phenomenon should not be viewed as an obstacle or a ‘problem’, but rather as an asset and a potential benefit to society.
- Social cohesion, intercultural dialogue and democratic citizenship, together with economic prosperity, represent important aims in building a more humane and inclusive Europe.
Implications for the learner:
- The learner has a fundamental human right to unrestricted and fair lifelong access to good quality education.
- The learner requires adequate support for the development of language competences. The provision for support will take into account, make use of, and build further on the learner’s existing language competences. At the same time, the learner seeks, among other things, to develop the language skills required for his or her educational career in a given context.
- Learners with low socio-economic status, special needs and those whose linguistic or cultural background may disadvantage them in the educational system require special attention and support for the development of the language abilities necessary for educational success in a given context.
Assumptions for good quality education based on inclusive plurilingual and intercultural pedagogy:
- All education uses language as its vehicle. Therefore well-developed language competences are a necessary basis for access to good quality education and successful learning.
- Good quality education provides adequate support for the appropriate development of learners’ language competence – efficient and effective use of more than one language is both necessary for successful education and one of its desired outcomes.
- Good quality education acknowledges and includes the learners’ “own” languages, especially if they are minority or migrant languages, as they are important features in their successful integration into the world of learning and help them in becoming self-confident and responsible members of society.
- A modification in approach is required, moving from the teaching and learning of languages as separate, unrelated and thus isolated (school) subjects towards providing coherent support for the lifelong development of transversal, individual strategies for deploying available linguistic resources purposefully, thus making efficient use of one’s own range of language competences.
- Effective use of communication technologies can play an important role in this strategy.
3.4 The programme scheme
Based on the rationale presented above the following scheme illustrates the underlying philosophy of the next ECML programme. It is based on and relates to the concept illustrated by the on-line platform of resources and references for plurilingual and intercultural education developed by the Language Policy Division.
3.5 The ECML long-term vision
The 2012-2015 programme seeks to draw conclusions from the fact that access for all to a good quality education represents a precondition for democratic developments in European societies. Against this backdrop and in line with the well established tradition of the work of the Council of Europe in the area of languages, the ECML programme will focus on the key agent, the ‘motor’ or promoter of positive and productive multilingual societies: the learner. Within societies and in cooperation between societies developments at all levels, be it social, economic or political, heavily draw upon successful learning taking place at all stages of life and reaching out to all people living in the society. Thus, the learner is not only a child or adolescent between the ages of 7 to 16 which marks the period of obligatory schooling in most European countries. Rather, every human being at all stages in life is considered a learner within a lifelong learning process.
The learner and the right of all learners to a good quality education at all levels (as acknowledged by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)7) constitute the focal points of the ECML programme. The end-user and beneficiary of all ECML programme activities is the learner. At the same time, projects included in the programme are expected to target language professionals and stakeholders in society functioning as facilitators and supporters of the learning process.
The learner whom we are addressing may be any age, may be representing a majority or a minority population in a given country, speaking a national and/or a regional language. The learner may be a second generation migrant without special needs or a non-migrant with special needs. The extensive range of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds in today’s European societies shows that in order to cater adequately for the right of all to a good quality education, provision needs to build on inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogic approaches.
There is a reason why the learner in the ECML’s programme is not categorised as a language learner only. Such a categorisation would reduce the perspective and scope of the programme as it would imply that language learners, out of all learners, are one particular sub-group among others. As highlighted within the Language Policy Division’s programme of activities ‘Language policies and the right to education for social inclusion 2010-2014’ all education implies language education. Therefore, all learners are language learners. For example, every mathematics class should build upon and develop language competences. There is no vocational training for specific professional groups such as electricians or accountants without elaboration of language knowledge, skills and attitudes. Given the diverse backgrounds of the learners represented in European classrooms the language of schooling may be the mother tongue of the students but in many cases it is not. In this situation it is important to note that not all teachers consider themselves as language teachers. Teacher training in subjects other than languages in many cases does not cater for developing teaching competences for inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogy.
The ECML’s long-term vision on language education builds upon the philosophy of the CEFR, emphasising that human beings do “not keep … languages and cultures in strictly separated mental compartments, but rather build… up a communicative competence to which all knowledge and experience of language contributes and in which languages interrelate and interact” (Council of Europe, 2001:4). The perspective shifts from a comparatively narrow focus on foreign language learning to learning in all educational contexts and domains always incorporating language learning in the mother tongue of the learner and/or in any other language of the learner’s repertoire. In the lifelong learning perspective the transversal aspect of language education becomes even more relevant because the subject areas listed above are not maintained as strictly as they are during the schooling process. Indeed, interdisciplinary courses are far more frequently offered for adult education than at schools and this can be an asset in implementing inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogy.
3.6 The overarching aim: Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education
The growing linguistic and cultural diversity in today’s European societies makes it evident that in order to cater adequately for each learner’s needs – supporting the development of each learner’s linguistic and intercultural capacities required for his/her personal well-being and success and for the benefit of the society they are a part of – provision needs to build on inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogic approaches. Pedagogic approaches are what teachers, educational institutions and society as a whole must provide and apply in implementing education. Consequently, pedagogical approaches following inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural thinking are practical steps to undertake in order to achieve good quality education for all.
Substantial work in this respect has already been undertaken and significant expertise has been built up in the area of foreign language education. Therefore, foreign language experts will play a vital role in moving forward the relevant approaches by inviting new partners in the educational domain to collaborate and contribute to common and coherent developments across subject and language boundaries.
Inclusive education evolved from Special Needs Education and its philosophy to counteract exclusion and discrimination of children with disabilities. In a broader context, this discussion was brought forward under the label “integration” targeting other disadvantaged learner groups like migrants, cultural and linguistic minorities, children or adults of low economic or social status, etc.
The discussions about necessary reform and change of education in order to achieve quality education for all have made clear that the challenge of diversity cannot be met by integration efforts on the side of the marginalised group only. Rather, all have to pursue and work towards the common goal of taking a holistic approach ensuring equal opportunities and rights for all.
In this context, inclusive approaches are being promoted as a way to provide learning environments that allow for democratic, effective and sustainable learning processes, outcomes and output for the benefit of all. Following this ideal, the ECML programme intends to further elaborate the obvious link between linguistic and intercultural competences and inclusion to identify approaches for practical implementation in the classroom.
“Inclusive education … looks into how to transform education systems in order to respond to the diversity of learners. It means enhancing the quality of education by improving the effectiveness of teachers, promoting learning-centred methodologies, developing appropriate textbooks and learning materials and ensuring that schools are safe and healthy for all children. Strengthening links with the community is also vital: relationship between teachers, students, parents and society at large are crucial for developing inclusive learning environments.” (UNESCO web portal, August 2010).
Plurilingual education and resulting pedagogic approaches aim at respecting and developing each learner’s language repertoire enabling the speaker to use languages with different degrees of proficiency and adapted to different contexts (home, school, public, private, professional, etc.).
The concept of plurilingualism was first elaborated in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001). It was pointed out that the implementation of plurilingual education would have a profound impact on language education by moving away from the ideal of “mastering” a foreign language to the perspective of developing the learner’s unique individual linguistic abilities and competences.
In the context of the discussion on quality education for all it is the social aspect of plurilingual education that has been stressed. Awareness-raising activities targeting languages present in classrooms but usually not considered as learning objects are being considered as powerful means to develop peer learning built on tolerance, respect for and knowledge about each other. In view of this dimension, plurilingual education ideally complements the inclusive and intercultural components of the envisaged pedagogic approaches.
“Plurilingual education (is)... not necessarily restricted to language teaching, which aims to raise awareness of each individual’s language repertoire, to emphasise its worth and to extend this repertoire by teaching lesser used or unfamiliar languages. Plurilingual education also aims to increase understanding of the social and cultural value of linguistic diversity in order to ensure linguistic goodwill and to develop intercultural competence.” (Council of Europe/Language Policy Division, 2007).
The need for European citizens to develop intercultural competences has been widely acknowledged by educational authorities and teaching professionals. In the Council of Europe’s White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (2008) it is pointed out that attitudes, behaviour, knowledge and skills relevant in intercultural contexts are not acquired as a side-effect of developing language competences but need to be explicitly placed on the educational agenda in order to be taught, learned, practised, elaborated and adapted to individual needs and social contexts.
There is a clear link between intercultural education and language (specifically foreign language) education. However, in view of the role of intercultural dialogue in the context of democratic citizenship and human rights education it became clear that intercultural education needs to become a constituent part of formal education and a nurtured element of the informal/non-formal learning context in good quality education in Europe.
“Intercultural Education: education that respects, celebrates, and recognises the normality of diversity in all aspects of human life, promotes equality and human rights, challenges unfair discrimination, and provides the values upon which equality is built” National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Ireland, 2005.