17 February 2017

Multilingual Education in the Light of Diversity: Lessons Learned

The report Multilingual Education in the Light of Diversity: Lessons Learned reviews international research to reveal how national education systems can better support multilingualism in their schools. Dr Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman (Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS) is co-author of the report initiated by the European Commission for Education and Culture. The report offers valuable insights into multilingual education and gives recommendations for policy makers, school communities and practitioners. 

The report describes the main challenges and opportunities involved in promoting multilingualism in schools. It looks into the education policies and practices that appear to be inclusive approaches promoting multi-lingualism and continuity of language learning.  It describes the role of different stakeholders in supporting multilingualism at individual and societal level. And it gives recommendations  that can serve as important (first) steps to improve present policies and ensure that they are linguistically and culturally sensitive.

Linguistic diversity in the classroom

While multilingualism and diversity have always been an integral part of Europe, they have also become important characteristics of many national education systems during the past two decades. More and more young learners are growing up with several cultures and languages and may experience multiple transitions between different school systems and school languages. Multilingualism is becoming more a way of life than a problem to be solved.

Dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman
Dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman

Multilingual schooling system

The task of education stakeholders is to create school systems that bridge these various linguistic and cultural realities and support the mobility of the pupils across Europe. Schools need to provide an education that supports the development of learners’ linguistic and cultural resources, while at the same time balancing these with social, cultural and political demands. The challenge at hand is therefore to offer a multilingual schooling system that supports the inclusion of all pupils in which they can develop their full potential linguistically, cognitively and emotionally.

Key findings

In the report the authors report the positive effects of a multilingual education and state that multilingualism needs to be supported.  Very few European countries presently support multilingualism at school and thereby miss an opportunity to capitalise on the advantages it brings to the learning process.

Re-thinking teacher initial education and continuous professional development programmes is necessary to equip teachers with knowledge and competences to support multilingual education. Teachers report that they are expected to rely on their own resources regarding multilingualism, and often report that they lack support and relevant training. Research shows that simply relying on the accumulation of experience does not help to improve the situation.

About the NESET II

NESET II is an advisory network of experts working on the social dimension of education and training. The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture initiated the establishment of the network as the successor to NESSE (2007-2010) and NESET (2011-2014).