The learner and the right of all learners to a good quality education at all levels (as acknowledged by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)7) constitute the focal points of the ECML programme. The end-user and beneficiary of all ECML programme activities is the learner. At the same time, projects included in the programme are expected to target language professionals and stakeholders in society functioning as facilitators and supporters of the learning process.
The learner whom we are addressing may be any age, may be representing a majority or a minority population in a given country, speaking a national and/or a regional language. The learner may be a second generation migrant without special needs or a non-migrant with special needs. The extensive range of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds in today’s European societies shows that in order to cater adequately for the right of all to a good quality education, provision needs to build on inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogic approaches.
There is a reason why the learner in the ECML’s programme is not categorised as a language learner only. Such a categorisation would reduce the perspective and scope of the programme as it would imply that language learners, out of all learners, are one particular sub-group among others. As highlighted within the Language Policy Division’s programme of activities ‘Language policies and the right to education for social inclusion 2010-2014’ all education implies language education. Therefore, all learners are language learners. For example, every mathematics class should build upon and develop language competences. There is no vocational training for specific professional groups such as electricians or accountants without elaboration of language knowledge, skills and attitudes. Given the diverse backgrounds of the learners represented in European classrooms the language of schooling may be the mother tongue of the students but in many cases it is not. In this situation it is important to note that not all teachers consider themselves as language teachers. Teacher training in subjects other than languages in many cases does not cater for developing teaching competences for inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogy.
The ECML’s long-term vision on language education builds upon the philosophy of the CEFR, emphasising that human beings do “not keep … languages and cultures in strictly separated mental compartments, but rather build… up a communicative competence to which all knowledge and experience of language contributes and in which languages interrelate and interact” (Council of Europe, 2001:4). The perspective shifts from a comparatively narrow focus on foreign language learning to learning in all educational contexts and domains always incorporating language learning in the mother tongue of the learner and/or in any other language of the learner’s repertoire. In the lifelong learning perspective the transversal aspect of language education becomes even more relevant because the subject areas listed above are not maintained as strictly as they are during the schooling process. Indeed, interdisciplinary courses are far more frequently offered for adult education than at schools and this can be an asset in implementing inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural pedagogy.
The overarching aim