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    About the Language descriptors project
ECML Programme 2012-2015

About the project "Language descriptors for migrant and minority learners' success in compulsory education"

Project results

What was the project about?

The project will focus on the language competence required in the language of schooling in order to achieve educational success. Eliciting language requirements in curriculum subjects and linking these to CEFR levels will raise educators’ awareness of the language migrant and minority language learners’ need to perform successfully in compulsory education.


The project focuses on the language of schooling. This is done by analyzing the language learners aged 12/13 and 15/16 need to succeed in social sciences and mathematics in compulsory education. 

Success in the educational system is closely linked to having a good command of the language of schooling in the country of residence. Learners’ level of language proficiency has an impact on their success in all school subjects: language as well as subject matter subjects.

Having a migrant or minority background may affect young learners´ school performance. Bearing this in mind, the outcomes of this project will be relevant for different stakeholders (policy makers, teachers, schools, parents) by providing them with the information necessary to promote an inclusive education, i.e. identifying the means to improve the learner´s language skills. 

The project will focus on the educational domain as described in the CEFR, and draw on research conducted on the language competence of young learners and the language of schooling. To carry out this project, we will:

  1. develop a questionnaire for teachers focusing on what pupils must be able to do language wise to succeed in social science/history and mathematics, and carry out a survey among subject matter teachers in Lithuania, Finland, Portugal and Norway.

  2. identify subject matter language skills migrant and minority learners should have in order to be successful in social science and mathematics in the four countries. This will be done by
    - studying subject curricula, textbooks and learning and assessment tasks for these subjects
    - developing a questionnaire and carrying out a survey among subject matter teachers focusing on the
       language skills needed in these subjects and age groups in the four countries
    - enhancing the already existing CEFR descriptors based on the data collected from the questionnaire and text and task analysis.

  3. produce a set of guidelines for others who want to identify subject matter language requirements for other subjects and school stages, or in other countries

This project was run within the ECML's Learning through languages programme.

Project working languages:
English and French

Project term:

Target audience involved in project activities:
policy makers;
school heads;
teacher educators;


The Language descriptors publication and the web pages result from the work of an international network established within one of the ECML projects. We would like to thank all who worked on Language descriptors, in particular the project coordination team for their motivation and active involvement.

Project working pages

Go to the project working pages
(for registered users only)

Project team

Eli Moe (coordinator)

Marita Härmälä

José Pascoal

Meilute Ramoniene

Paula Lee Kristmanson