Multilingual classrooms

Growing numbers of school children in the EU have a mother tongue different to the main language used for teaching in their school. This raises the question of how to best harness the potential of the EU’s linguistic diversity.

The importance of multilingualism in schools 

Across the EU, migrant children bring a multitude of new languages and their language skills to the classroom. This is a potential asset to the individual, to schools and society.

While figures differ considerably between EU Member States – from 1% in Poland to 40% in Luxembourg – in the EU as a whole, just under 10 % of all students learn in a language other than their mother tongue. 

This raises the question of how to best harness the potential contained within the EU’s linguistic diversity. There is evidence that migrant children generally perform worse in attaining basic skills than their peers. 

Schools need to adapt their teaching methods to engage with children's linguistic and cultural backgrounds in a positive manner enabling students to thrive throughout at school.

What is the EU doing to promote multilingual classrooms?

The Commission is working together with the EU Member States to identify successful strategies for language learning in multilingual settings and to facilitate the sharing of best practices in the field. The results of this collaboration and of comprehensive studies on this topic are contained within the Commission report – Language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms

In follow-up to this report and as a contribution to the review of the Key Competence Framework for Lifelong Learning, a series of thematic workshops and Peer Learning Activities about the integration of migrant children through school education were organised. 

The group produced two reports, Rethinking language education and linguistic diversity in schools, and Migrants in European schools: Learning and maintaining languages.

What are the next steps?

The Erasmus+ programme offers new opportunities, such as policy experimentation and large-scale partnerships, to develop new strategies for language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms.

Together with the Council of Europe and its Centre for Modern Languages, the Commission will support the development and dissemination of new methods for language teaching in multilingual classrooms

Resources and support for teachers working with pupils of different nationalities in the classroom will be developed as part of the Commission’s wider strategy for the teaching professions.