What is it about?

Growing numbers of schoolchildren in the European Union have a mother tongue other than the main language of instruction used in school. The proportion varies considerably between EU countries, ranging from 1% in Poland to 40 % in Luxembourg.

Migrant children bring a multitude of languages and language skills to the classroom. This is a potential asset to the individual, schools and society at large. Linguistic diversity raises the issue of how schools can make best use of this potential.

Why is it needed?

There is evidence that migrant children generally perform less well in basic skills than their peers. Schools need to adapt their teaching methods to engage with children's different language backgrounds contructively and positively, enabling all pupils to thrive at school.

What has been done so far?

The European Commission has financed a policy network on the education of children and young people with migrant backgrounds, Sirius. This pursues research and policy development in the field of language learning and has issued a policy brief on the subject.

The Commission has worked together with the EU countries to identify successful strategies for language learning in multilingual settings and to facilitate the sharing of good practices in the field. The results of this collaboration and of a comprehensive literature review on the topic, have resulted  in a report entitled Language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms.

The report on language teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms will be discussed with Member States partly in the context of the response from the education sector to the current refugee crisis, as reflected in the Paris declaration from March 2015 (Deutsch français).

As a follow-up to the first report on multilingual classrooms 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 in 2016 and 2017. Among the renowned experts who submitted input papers for the discussions were Emmanuelle le Pichon-Vorstmann, Dina Mehmedbegovic, Ellen-Rose Kambel and Teresa Tinsley. The group produced an interim report entitled Rethinking language education in schools (Deutsch français).

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.