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    Plurilingual and intercultural education

Plurilingual and intercultural education

Developing every individual’s language repertoire and cultural identities and highlighting the social value of linguistic and cultural diversity lie at the core of ECML work. Plurilingual education embraces all language learning, e.g. home language/s, language/s of schooling, foreign languages, and regional and minority languages. Intercultural learning supports the personal growth of learners and enhances social cohesion.

Plurilingual education 

The development and practice of plurilingual education is one of the Council of Europe’s most important priorities. Europe is multilingual and in order to fulfil its social and cultural aims, it seeks to provide education adapted to the needs of plurilingual citizens. 

What do we mean by plurilingual education?

“The plurilingual approach emphasises the fact that as an individual person’s experience of language in its cultural contexts expands, from the language of the home to that of society at large and then to the languages of other peoples, he or she does not keep these languages and cultures in strictly separated mental compartments, but rather builds up a communicative competence to which all knowledge and experience of language contributes and in which languages interrelate and interact.” (CEFR, p.13)

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How ECML projects contribute to plurilingual education

The FREPA/CARAP project (A Framework of Reference for Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures) provides a comprehensive description of the knowledge, attitudes and skills which constitute plurilingual and pluricultural competences. Like the Common European Framework of Reference, it describes the skills in "can do" statements – "can identify / compare / analyse etc." and breaks new ground in the descriptors of attitudes – as "will / disposition / determination".

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Intercultural education 

What is intercultural learning? 

“Interculturality entails a number of underlying cognitive, affective and behavioural competences. These include knowledge (for example, knowledge about other cultural groups and their products and practices, and knowledge about the ways in which people of different cultures interact), attitudes (such as curiosity, openness, respect for otherness and empathy), skills of interpreting and relating (for example, interpreting a practice from another culture and relating it to practices within one’s own culture), skills of discovery (such as the ability to search out and acquire new knowledge about a culture and its practices and products), and critical cultural awareness (that is, the ability to evaluate critically the practices and products of one’s own and other cultures).” (Autobiography of intercultural encounters – Concepts for discussion, p.10)

Intercultural learning and mobility

By mobility we mean individuals (children, adolescents or adults) moving from one environment to another for short or long periods of time. Mobility in language education is important as it provides students and teachers with opportunities to spend time studying, training or working in another country and to improve their language skills and develop their intercultural competences. Competences developed and enhanced through mobility increase the individual’s self-awareness and awareness of others. Each of these competences is particularly important for the individuals’ future personal, academic and professional development.

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How ECML projects contribute to intercultural education

The ECML project Conbat offers a bank of teaching materials, together with a training kit on how to use these materials and presents an innovative way of managing diversity in the classroom by combining plurilingual and pluricultural approaches with content-based instruction. 

The Plurimobil project aims to promote best practice in mobility programmes, using tools developed by the Council of Europe to develop linguistic and intercultural competences. The project provides model learning scenarios for trainee teachers and pupils in primary, secondary and vocational education. It focuses mainly on the promotion and development of mobility in school contexts, so that learners on exchange programmes gain maximum benefit from their experiences in a new environment.

Professional mobility also provides opportunities to develop intercultural skills, and the ECML publication ICOPROMO focuses on how to improve intercultural competence for professional mobility. 

The Gulliver project and publication - “Getting to know each other leads to better understanding” gives guidance on how to set up forums between schools on topics related to intercultural understanding.

Platform of resources and references for plurilingual and intercultural education of the Council of Europe

The work of the ECML in the area of plurilingual and intercultural education is part of a major initiative of the Council of Europe. The Platform of resources and references for plurilingual and intercultural education is ‘an instrument enabling member states to develop their programmes relating to languages of schooling and all language teaching’. It offers ‘an open and dynamic resource, with systems of definitions, points of reference, descriptions and descriptors, studies and good practices’. Reference texts and resources highlighted under ‘The learner and the languages present in school’ focus on plurilingual and intercultural education. Those under ‘Intercultural education’ include the ‘Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters’.

Competences for Democratic Culture
The Council of Europe has developed a Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture, to be adapted for use in primary and secondary schools and higher education and vocational training institutions throughout Europe as well as national curricula and teaching programmes.

Plurilingual education and other thematic areas

Languages of schooling
Two projects (Marille and Maledive) have addressed the issue of how plurilingual education can have an impact on the teaching of the language of schooling. 

Migrant education and employment
Many issues in plurilingual and intercultural education are particularly relevant for migrant education. The project A collaborative community approach to migrant education provides a virtual open course for educators to enhance young migrants' education by developing links between schools, the home and local partners in education. 

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
In more and more countries, especially at secondary levels, students study a number of subjects in a second or foreign language using CLIL approaches. A number of ECML projects have produced guides for implementing CLIL in language education. They include the European Framework for CLIL Teacher Education and A pluriliteracies approach to teaching for learning, which links plurilingual approaches and the development of literacy.

Featured Resources

A Framework of Reference for Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures (FREPA)

The FREPA/CARAP project (A Framework of Reference for Pluralistic Approaches to Languages and Cultures) provides a comprehensive description of the knowledge, attitudes and skills which constitute plurilingual and pluricultural competences.

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Plurilingual and intercultural learning through mobility - Practical resources for teachers and teacher trainers (PluriMobil)

PluriMobil provides teachers and teacher trainers, international officers and other stakeholders with training and practical resources to help them support plurilingual and intercultural learning, and to foster language learning autonomy of students (primary, lower and upper secondary, teacher training), before, during and after a mobility activity.

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Current project

Learning environments where modern languages flourish

The project aims to improve social skills and democratic competences through the learning of modern languages. To this end, it will identify the key parameters, which, together, foster a learning environment where languages can flourish.

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