Key findings: Languages in pre-primary education

Pre-primary pupilLanguage Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. Today we focus on pre-primary education.

  • Many European Union and Council of Europe documents underline the importance of early language learning. At pre-primary level, 14 of the 24 countries/regions surveyed provide additional support in the national language for all children funded by the state. The Netherlands and Ukraine devote the most time to this.
  • Foreign language provision at this level is offered by seven countries/regions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Catalonia, Estonia, Spain and Ukraine, although it may be partly or fully funded by parents/guardians. English, French and German are the most common languages offered.
  • Regional/minority languages are offered by 17 countries/regions, and are mainly funded by the state/region. In some countries there are minimum group size requirements to form a group. The widest variety of languages is offered in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Ukraine.
  • Provision in immigrant languages in pre-primary education is not yet very common. However, in spite of the difficulties involved in identifying appropriate teachers and learning materials, three countries (Denmark, Spain and Switzerland) do offer support to very young children for the maintenance and development of their languages and cultures of origin. In Denmark national, regional and local funds cover all costs for these programmes, while in Spain and Switzerland source-country related funds partly cover the costs through bilateral agreements.
  • The only country offering early language learning across all language types is Spain.

If you haven’t already, have a read of Baby Erasmus, a great initiative in Spain and share any other good practice examples from your country by responding to this post!

You can read the LRE profile for your country on the country profile page of our website and find out more about our key findings in the first part of this series – Key findings: Official documents and databases.

“Education and public services must go multilingual” recommends EU Platform

Following on from a previous post on the Language Rich Europe blog in May, the EU Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (CSPM) has now published its policy recommendations to the European Commission, member states and regional authorities with this advice:

Education and public services must go multilingual to boost Europe’s language skills, sustain Europe’s economies and cater for increasingly diverse societies

According to the CSPM there are still unacceptable gaps in support for multilingualism and language learning throughout the EU and even where good policies exist, implementation is often inadequate. To help combat this, the platform recommends strategies including making plurilingual education (“mother tongue” plus 2 other languages) the norm; strengthening learning support for immigrants; and improving language skills of public services across Europe.

Uwe Mohr, Chairperson of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism, explains:

only as multilinguals can we fully enjoy the benefits of our culturally and linguistically diverse Europe and live a richer, more interesting and more successful life in the Europe of the future.

Multilingualism is seen as crucial to the preservation and accessibility of the common European cultural heritage and the CSPM identifies translation as playing an important role in this. The platform therefore also recommends that the working conditions of translators be substantially improved, with sound degree programmes and opportunities for mobility.

The CSPM, chaired by EUNIC in Brussels, was set up in 2009 by the European Commission to promote multilingualism in Europe in the areas of culture, media and non-formal education. It consists of 29 selected member organisations which are all committed to promoting multilingualism and operating at a trans-national or European-wide level. There are plans for the platform to continue its work beyond this project. As Mohr states:

Europe needs to develop a language policy that monitors language use and ensures that languages are treated equally. We also highly recommend that the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism be continued on a permanent basis to act as an instrument of dialogue between the EU policy level on the one side and the national, regional, and local language policy levels and social reality on the other side.

Nine members of the CSPM have committed to setting up an on-line Language Observatory to advise policymakers in designing and implementing successful policies for multilingualism. As part of the European Commission funded project, the observatory will launch in the autumn and will conduct research and capture and disseminate good practice.

Coming soon:

You can read the recommendations in full at the following website.

The website will be launched in September. In the meantime you can follow the project on Twitter and Facebook.