Evidence-based policy

The European Commission strengthens its evidence base in the field of languages policy, notably through regular monitoring. This is essential to help governments understand the existing levels of second-language proficiency and to enable them to take measures to improve the outcomes of language learning.

Towards an evidence base for language policy

To ensure the development of relevant policies and effective initiatives, the Commission is developing a sound evidence base in the field of languages policy. Using available data sources, the Commission monitors the progress of language teaching and learning.

The Commission works with Eurostat, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to collect and analyse data on language teaching across Europe. On this basis, sound language competence indicators and standards are being developed at European level.

The periodical Key Data on Teaching Languages at School, provided by the Eurydice network, also contributes important information about national developments.

What is the EU doing to promote evidence-based policymaking?

The Commission strengthens its evidence base in the field of languages policy, notably through regular monitoring. Monitoring is essential to help gather data on existing levels of second-language proficiency and to support measures to improve the outcomes of policies and initiatives promoting language learning.  

Regular monitoring also provides information on how demographic, social, economic and educational variables affect language proficiency within and across EU Member States.

The European Indicator of Language Competence represented the first major step toward establishing a sound evidence base to support policymaking in the field of language learning. The indicator gathered evidence on language programmes and policies to assist Member States to improve national standards.

The 2011-12 EU survey on language skills (held in 14 EU countries) showed that:

  • 42% of 15 year-old pupils tested had attained "independent user "level (B1/B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in their first foreign language
  • 25% had reached this level in a second foreign language
  • 14% of pupils lacked even a basic knowledge of one

Building on a set of agreed indicators and benchmarks, the Commission now publishes the Education and Training Monitor, an annual report that aims to foster and encourage evidence-based policymaking in the field of language learning. The Monitor seeks to illustrate the evolution of education and training systems across Europe, and assesses a variety of benchmarks, indicators, recent studies and policy developments. 

The objective of the report is to provide a framework for discussions between Member States and European institutions as part of the Strategic Framework for European Policy Cooperation in Education and Training (ET2020).