en  fr  de
  1. Home
  2.  > 
  3.  > 
    Languages of schooling

Languages of schooling

Language education does not stop with language as subject. Language proficiency is equally needed in all other subjects, which are sometimes falsely considered as “non-linguistic” subjects.


Subject learning comprises much more than “simply” learning content, for it also comprises learning to use language in new ways in order to develop and express subject knowledge. The term ‘language(s) of schooling’, therefore, embraces two key components ‘language as subject’ and ‘language in other subjects’.

In some contexts, the languages in learners’ repertoires may be taught at school either as subjects in their own right or as the medium of instruction; there may be two languages of schooling, such as in bilingual systems. But for many learners in European classrooms today, their first language is not represented in the school system at all. 

Role of the Council of Europe

Learner-centredness and holistic approaches to language learning

The diagram below represents graphically the Council of Europe’s view of languages and language education. At the top of the diagram, in the centre, stands the learner with his/her linguistic and cultural repertoire. She/he is the central protagonist and the starting point: all the rest is the work of the education system. 

In this diagram the language of schooling sits at the heart of the school system, in a pivotal position owing to its decisive and defining role in the learner’s education and its cross-cutting dimension in teaching/learning processes. 

Role of the ECML

Past and present ECML activities aim to sensitise teachers, teacher educators and other language professionals to the importance of supporting learners to develop competences in the languages of schooling for educational success. 

Current programme 2016-2019: Languages at the heart of learning


Think tank

Training and Consultancy

Programme 2012-2015: Learning through languages- Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education



Featured resources

3 items found for "Show all items"
Teaching the language of schooling in the context of diversity. Study materials for teacher development

The study materials focus on teacher education for the language of schooling (e.g. French in France, Polish in Poland). They draw on the linguistic and cultural diversity in the classroom for the benefit of all learners.

Available in English, French and German

Go to the publication page

Language skills for successful subject learning. CEFR-linked descriptors for mathematics and history/civics (Language Descriptors)
These resources highlight challenges for young learners in subject classes where the language of instruction is not their first language. The focus is on minimum language standards in history/civics and mathematics for learners aged 12/13 and 15/16. The language descriptors are linked to CEFR levels A2, B1 and B2 and available in six languages.

Available in English and French

Go to the publication page

A pluriliteracies approach to teaching for learning

A pluriliteracies approach builds on CLIL approaches to help learners become better meaning-makers, who can draw on content knowledge to communicate successfully across languages, disciplines and cultures. In this way it promotes deep learning and helps develop responsible, global citizens.

Available in English and German (German coming soon)

Go to the publication page


Think tank: Whole-school approaches to the language/s of schooling

The online questionnaire produced a total of 107 complete responses from 33 different countries, including 7 non-ECML member states. Nearly 20% of the respondents were teacher trainers, closely followed by academic researchers (18%). Most encouraging was to see that in addition to these two key ECML target groups, responses were received from parents, language teachers, teachers of non-linguistic subjects as well as head teachers. This is an endorsement of the ECML’s decision to focus this think tank not only on the language/s of schooling but specifically on whole-school approaches.  Moreover, teacher respondents came from all sectors from pre-primary to upper secondary. 
Read more


Latest articles

Learn more about language learning and the benefits of language diversity in education!

Lunchtime Conference "The future of education is in three languages! How do people acquire the languages they need for life and work?" (Brussels, 6 February 2018, 12:00-14:00)

Language learning pathways: The Think tank meeting (18-19 January 2018)