The Language Policy Unit and the ECML of the Council of Europe seek to contribute to making an "education of quality" available to all. But what do we mean by quality? The title of the present programme of the ECML is "promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education" which implies that these approaches really do improve the quality of education for all. This raises the question : in what way?
Elizabeth Coelho, writing about multilingual classrooms says "inclusion is not just about bringing people into what already exists. It means creating a new space, a better space". Let’s try and look at how multilingual, inclusive spaces can be better:
- First of all, it’s in the recognition that monolingual classrooms almost don’t exist any more in Europe. Recognising that there is diversity of language in the class and acknowledging its value is a form of realism ; learning and teaching are more effective if everyone in the class feels s/he has a place and is valued – learning is social and belongs to the group.
- Secondly, plurilingual and pluricultural approaches have added value for everyone. Language and culture are not cakes of limited size – if you learn something about another language it doesn’t mean you lose a bit of your own language, and being aware of another culture doesn’t eat away at your own identity, it makes it broader and richer.
- Finally, there’s lots of good scientific evidence that bi- and plurilinguals have cognitive advantages over monolinguals, in flexibility of dealing with information, so approaches which help newcomers in a community are also of benefit to those whose first language is the language of schooling.