Closing conference of the 3rd programme of ECML activities
Over 200 language education specialists from all over Europe and from Canada participated in the closing conference of the Empowering Language Professionals programme of activities (2008-2011) coordinated by the European Centre for Modern Languages in Graz. The projects initiated under the 3rd programme relate to four key thematic areas in the field of language education:
The conference featured the results of 23 projects supporting member states in promoting and disseminating innovation and good practice in the learning and teaching of modern languages. Over 400 events directly involving 4000 participants in 40 states and in Europe and beyond, contributions to over 300 conferences, seminars and workshops worldwide, 23 sets of publications made available to language professionals – this is the impressive balance of the activities coordinated by the ECML over the last four years.
In her opening address, Ólöf Ólafsdóttir, Director of Education and Languages, representing the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, congratulated the Centre and thanked all those who contributed to its success: the many European experts involved in the Centre’s project activities and the representatives of the ECML member states which oversee, support and disseminate the results of the Centre’s work. Referring to the current economic and budgetary crisis in Europe which places significant pressure on many member states to examine their level of contribution towards international cooperation she stressed that their efforts to sustain this cooperation are to be valued today more than ever. She added that the most efficient way to deal with the crisis in the contemporary globalised world is precisely through solidarity and cooperation at international and intergovernmental level. Her special thanks went to the Austrian authorities for their longstanding commitment and generous support – to the Austrian Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, the Austrian Ministry for Science and Research, the authorities of the Province of Styria and the City of Graz, and to the Austrian ECML Association which manages this support.
Teresa Condeço from the Multilingualism Policy Unit of the European Commission highlighted the need for continued cooperation between the Commission and the Council in the area of languages. In this, she referred to the joint Declaration signed by Commissioner Vassiliou and Secretary General Jagland to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Day of Languages on 26 September 2011.
In her opening keynote, Anne Brasseur, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, stressed the importance of languages for the intercultural dialogue. Jim Cummins from the University of Toronto, Canada, provided evidence from research showing the need for language teachers to seek to empower the learners, to give them confidence and value all their skills and competences.
In a session entitled “Plurilingualism in a globalised 21st century”, chaired by Thomas Hajnoczi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Austria to the Council of Europe, a speech by Graham Fraser, Commisioner of Official Languages, Canada on “Bilingualism and multilingualism from the Canadian perspective” was presented. Ana Perona-Fjeldstad from the European Wergeland Centre in Oslo indicated areas of potential for cooperation between the Centre and the ECML. Johanna Panthier from the Language Policy Division provided the participants with the overall context of the Council of Europe’s work in support of languages in and for education.
The conference concluded with the launch of the next (4th) ECML programme Learning Through Languages – Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education (2012-15) featuring innovative approaches to language education, mediation (dissemination of developments and dialogue with stakeholders) and targeted support to the ECML member states.
Clockwise from top left: Audience members at the plenary sessions; Publication fair at the ECML conference; ECML staff at the Stadtmuseum reception; Jim Cummins, Keynote Speaker, University of Toronto, Canada.