New reports on multilingualism: How to create an inclusive multilingual and multicultural environment at school


In the last decades, teaching and learning of foreign languages became an important topic in relation to support study and labour mobility in Europe. The most recent PISA Report on global competences underlines that learning foreign languages is not only for communication but they highly contribute to creating open-minded and inclusive societies. According to the recent PISA Report, people speaking foreign languages positively behave toward other cultures and appear more prepared to face global challenges. Also, the Council of Europe highlights the importance of increasing multilingual and multicultural environment at school. In its recently updated Common European framework of reference for languages, the Council of Europe goes beyond the concept of “multilingualism”, intended as the coexistence of different languages, in favour to the idea of “plurilingualism”, conceived as the practical process of developing multilinguistic abilities and multicultural knowledge. The report also includes some useful guidelines for teachers to improve teaching languages according to adjusted learning outcomes, which now pays more attentions to gender equality and adds a new set of indicators directly related to multilingual and multicultural competences.

The importance of creating a multilingual learning environment also results in the European Union legislative framework.  Two years ago, the European Commission issued a Proposal for a Council Recommendation on improving teaching and learning of foreign languages. In answer to this proposal, ETUCE issued a statement underlining that public investment to language learning and supporting  teachers’ training is essential to create an inclusive multilingual environment at school for enhancing European citizenship, cooperation and a peaceful intercultural dialogue, and to help integrating refugees, migrants and minorities to education. In 2019, the Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages encouraged countries to adopt education policy frameworks accounting more possibilities for mobility of teachers and innovative multilingual teaching methods. Following the adoption of this recommendation, the European Commission set up an expert group and published studies to help countries improving teaching languages at school.

A recently published report “Education begins with language summarises the outcomes of the work of the expert group of the European Commission and presents some practical suggestions to enhance multilingualism in schools, underling the importance to support teachers and education personnel. It underlines that it is necessary to enhance the initial teachers’ education and their continuing professional development through experience of mobility that allows teachers to deeply experience foreign languages and cultures and to stimulate the development of innovative, inclusive and multilingual pedagogical methods. Moreover, the report stresses the importance of adopting a collaborative teaching approach among teachers and to increase international school partnerships. ETUCE welcomes that the report acknowledges the crucial role of teachers, however, we believe that governments should implement more effective and target plans to provide teachers with high-quality initial training. Concerning the continuous professional development, the latest OECD data on global competences shows that in average, in OECD countries, only the 30% of teachers receive professional training to teach in multicultural context. Nevertheless, continuous professional development cannot be an economic burden for teachers but must be supported with adequate sustainable public investment.

Also, among the most recent studies, “The future of language education in Europe presents examples of good practices implemented in the national or regional contexts of Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden to enhance multilingualism at school. The report also presents some policy recommendations calling policy makers to implement concrete measures to create inclusive and equal learning environments and to adopt a more positive approach towards multilingualism. Furthermore, the report highlights that teachers’ working conditions and the autonomy of schools go hand in hand with innovation in education. ETUCE welcomes these recommendations and underlines the importance to consider multilingualism not as an obstacle, but rather as an added value.