On 13th and 14th September 2016 the ECML hosted its first ever “Think tank” which brought together language experts from sixteen different European countries, three International non-governmental organisations, a representative from the European Commission and the ECML secretariat to look in depth at one of the greatest challenges facing European school systems today – the language of schooling. The overall aim of the Think tank was to present the ECML with recommendations on the kinds of activities the centre could undertake in this area, within the current programme 2016-19.
The two-day event was preceded with an online questionnaire – one which triggered a very positive response from across Europe and beyond. 107 responses were received from 33 different countries from Canada to Turkey, with interest particularly high in France, Spain and Switzerland. Respondent profiles included parents, language teachers, teachers of non-linguistic subjects, teacher trainers and head teachers, each providing not only detailed accounts of the challenges being faced but also of interesting initiatives in place or planned to address these. Such a numerous and wide-ranging response is evidence of the recognition that well-developed competences in the language/s of schooling are essential if every young person is to have access to quality education and the chance to reach his/her academic potential. It also indicates that the only way to provide the required support is for everyone in the wider school community to work together.
In order to come up with innovative yet feasible recommendations, the experts at the Think tank drew on the questionnaire results and on the rich and varied resources already developed by the Council of Europe in this field, both by the Language Policy Unit in Strasbourg and the ECML in Graz. Against this backdrop, they looked more closely at particular aspects of the language/s of schooling, including the rationale for a whole-school approach, strategies for its implementation, the most appropriate teaching methodologies and the practical challenges facing school communities.
A number of very interesting proposals emerged: expanding the current ECML Training and consultancy offer; organising a joint EU-ECML event; developing an online self-assessment tool so that schools can better understand the challenges, assess their own situation and consider different solutions; creating a community of practice beginning with everyone who responded to the ECML questionnaire - to name but a few. The ECML will now give these ideas their careful consideration and present them to the Governing Board when it meets on 13/14th October 2016.
The ECML would like to take this opportunity to thank the moderation team and the participants for their hard work, their enthusiasm and their willingness to share their experience and expertise, all in an atmosphere of genuine intercultural enrichment and warm conviviality.