of the Committee of Ministers to member States
on the importance of competences in the language(s) of schooling for equity and quality in education and for educational success
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 2 April 2014
at the 1196th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, by virtue of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater union among its members and that this aim may be pursued in particular by the adoption of common action in the fields of education and culture;
Recalling that the essential mission of the Council of Europe is the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
Bearing in mind:
- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, particularly Article 26 thereof, which sets out the right of every individual to education, which must, among other things, be directed to the full development of the human personality;
- the right to education as defined in Article 2 of the Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Protocol No. 1, ETS No. 9) and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (particularly Article 29 thereof);
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on ensuring quality education, which refers to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ETS No. 5, 1950), in particular its Protocol No. 1 (ETS No. 9, 1952);
- the European Cultural Convention (ETS No. 18);
- the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ETS No. 148);
- the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS No. 157);
- the European Social Charter (revised) (ETS No. 163);
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on strengthening the integration of children of migrants or with an immigrant background;
- Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1093 (1989) on the “Education of migrants’ children”;
- Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1740 (2006) on “The place of mother tongue in school education”;
- Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe Recommendation 222 (2007) on “Language education in regional or minority languages”, and Resolution 129 (1982) of its Standing Conference on the education of migrant workers’ children;
- General Policy Recommendation No. 10 of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on combating racism and racial discrimination in and through school education;
- the Council of Europe White Paper on intercultural dialogue “Living together as equals in dignity” (2008);
- the results of such international studies as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) showing the importance of competences in languages of schooling for educational success and social inclusion;
- the conclusions of the 2010 Council of Europe Intergovernmental Language Policy Forum on “The right of learners to quality and equity in education – The role of linguistic and intercultural competences”;
- the programmes of the Steering Committee for Educational Policy and Practice (CDPPE) of the Council of Europe on the language of schooling and its reference instruments on language education;
- that the right to education can only be fully exercised if the learners master the specific linguistic rules that are applied in schools and are necessary for access to knowledge;
- that such linguistic competences are one of the factors in educational success and that they are a prerequisite for undertaking further qualifying academic or vocational education and training, and therefore important for participation in society and sustainable inclusion;
- that some learners may be disadvantaged vis-à-vis mastery of these linguistic competences because of social and linguistic inequalities,
Recommends that the governments of member States:
1. implement, with respect for national, regional and/or local circumstances and in conformity with constitutional provisions, the measures set out in the appendix to the present recommendation in order to provide opportunities for all to acquire competences in the language(s) of schooling which are necessary for their success in the various school subjects;
2. draw, when implementing these measures, on the experience of the member States which is made generally available by the Council of Europe and other international organisations, while taking into account the specificities of their education system;
3. bring this recommendation and the reference documents on which it is based to the attention of the public and private bodies in their countries through the appropriate national channels,
Asks the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to bring this recommendation to the attention of those States Parties to the European Cultural Convention which are not members of the Council of Europe.
Appendix to Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)5
Scope and definitions
1. The present recommendation is aimed at education authorities in member States, and in particular those responsible for educational content and programmes, those responsible for initial and further training, and school principals and their teaching staff.
2. The recommendation concerns the central importance of competences in language(s) of schooling for preventing underachievement and therefore their role in ensuring equity and quality in education.
3. “Language of schooling” denotes the language used for teaching the various school subjects and for the functioning of schools. This language is usually the official language(s) of the State or the region, for example Polish in Poland or Italian in Italy, but may also concern officially recognised regional or minority languages, foreign or migrant languages. Depending on the national or regional context, several languages of schooling are used.
4. Every school subject (history, art, mathematics, etc., including the language of schooling as a specific subject) uses its own specific forms of oral and written expression. Students must master these norms in order to appropriate the contents taught and successfully participate in school activities.
5. Most students arrive at school with the competences in the language of schooling required for ordinary communication. But for the most vulnerable learners, those who use a different language for day-to-day communication and, especially, learners from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, the acquisition of competences in the language of schooling is a major challenge. It is thanks to high quality teaching of all the school subjects, taking their language dimensions into account, that students gradually acquire the competences in the more “academic” language used in teaching.
6. Education authorities in member States are encouraged, when reviewing their educational policies, to draw on the following principles:
a. linguistic competences and equal opportunities
Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)13 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on ensuring quality education highlights the responsibility of education systems in ensuring equal opportunities for learners. This includes the responsibility to guarantee the command of the languages used and taught, going beyond competences for ordinary communication.
b. access to knowledge and cognitive development
In this context, particular attention should be paid, right from the outset of schooling, to the acquisition of the language of schooling, which, as both a specific school subject and a medium of instruction in the other subjects, plays a crucial role in providing access to knowledge and cognitive development.
c. action to support groups of learners with educational difficulties
Teachers and other educational actors should take particular care that the knowledge and the spontaneous forms of expression which learners use in relation to subject contents are gradually enriched. This applies in particular to certain groups of pupils, who are often those with migrant backgrounds or disadvantaged socio-economic status, who may experience learning difficulties because of an inadequate command of the language of schooling. The learners’ language competences with regard to various subjects should receive particular attention when learning is to be assessed.
d. respect for and enhancement of the learners’ individual and collective identities
If the implementation of these principles is to be effective, attention must also be paid to the variety of the languages used by the students, including the languages of minority or migrant groups and the different language registers, acknowledging that all languages are conducive to the success of school learning processes as much as to individual fulfilment and preparation for active life and the exercise of citizenship.
Measures to be implemented
7. It is incumbent on the public authorities to guarantee appropriate language learning, as one of their responsibilities in guaranteeing the quality of education under the national education system, covering both public and private education.
8. They should therefore give clear political impetus in order to encourage the actors concerned to combine their efforts to develop awareness in the education system of the importance of the requisite competences in the language(s) of schooling, which are not necessarily acquired outside school.
9. The effectiveness of action vis-à-vis the definition of educational contents, teaching practices and teacher training, for all school levels, presupposes coherency in the initiatives taken.
10. It would thus be desirable that:
a. those responsible for educational contents and programmes promote effective consideration of the linguistic dimensions in the various school subjects by:
i. making explicit the specific linguistic norms and competences which learners must be able to master in individual school subjects;
ii. making explicit in the programmes and curricula the learning modalities that should allow all learners, and in particular the most vulnerable among them, to be exposed to diversified language-learning situations in order to develop their cognitive and linguistic capacities;
iii. highlighting, in the programmes, convergences in the linguistic dimensions of the various subjects, in such a way as to reinforce the effectiveness of the educational project;
iv. recalling, in the programmes for the language of schooling as a specific school subject, the special place which this language holds because of its cross-cutting effect on all the learning processes conducted in that language;
v. encouraging authors of educational materials to ensure that such materials explicitly take account of the linguistic dimensions of the different subjects;
vi. continuing and extending research in this field;
b. those responsible for initial and further training and school administrative staff foster genuine consideration of the importance of the linguistic dimensions in teaching and assessment practices through:
i. training courses to prepare teachers of all subjects to provide, alongside the subject-based content, teaching of the linguistic dimensions in constructing knowledge and to seek maximum coherence among their various teaching processes;
ii. raising awareness among local educational staff of their role in devising and implementing a coherent whole-school policy for the language of schooling, including taking into account the various languages present in the school as a resource to be exploited;
c. teachers and other educational actors in schools put into place processes for diagnosing and assessing linguistic competences and appropriate forms of support, in order to facilitate mastery of the language of schooling by:
i. verifying at regular intervals, and in particular between different stages of education, learners’ ability to master those aspects of the language of schooling required at different stages of education, so as to adapt the course progression accordingly and provide appropriate forms of support taking account of learners’ specific needs and aptitudes;
ii. if possible, making full use of the linguistic resources which learners possess for knowledge building;
iii. anticipating, for each subject, the kinds of competences in the language of schooling that will be required in assessments with a view to preparing pupils for them;
iv. organising a diversity of approaches to assessment, in particular formative assessment and self-assessment, in order to acknowledge achievements and enhance the self-esteem of each learner;
d. the Council of Europe ensure co-operation at the European level by:
i. organising, within the CDPPE, exchange forums for education authorities in the member States;
ii. pooling the results of successful experiments via the Council of Europe website, particularly the Language Policy Unit’s Platform of resources and references for plurilingual and intercultural education;
iii. giving assistance to member States by the Language Policy Unit in developing school curricula with a view to clarifying the linguistic competences required for teaching and learning all school subjects;
iv. providing training by the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) for teacher trainers and school administrative staff on the linguistic dimension of all teaching and learning processes.