Policy Papers

Policy papers connect research with policy through focusing on a specific piece of research and explaining its relevance for policy. The link to policy can range from pointing out conclusions and lessons for practice through to discussion of existing policies and practices and formulation of policy recommendations. In all cases the emphasis is on providing research evidence for criticising, endorsing or proposing a policy.


Policy review: The role of assessment in European language policy - a historical overview

  • European language policy is led by two intergovernmental institutions: the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU). European language policy over the past 40 years involves three differentiated periods.
  • The first one spans from the late 1980s throughout the 1990s, when assessment was mainly seen as part of wider language education initiatives funded and developed by the Council of Europe and the EU. This period culminates in the early 2000s with the launch of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the establishment of the EU’s goal of ‘mother tongue + 2’.
  • In 2001, the Council of Europe and the EU joined forces to celebrate for the first time the European Day of Languages (EDL), which has been celebrated annually ever since. This marked the beginning of more intense cooperation between these two institutions.
  • The second period is marked by the need to measure progress in the development of language competences, with language assessment as the central instrument for policy making.
  • Between 2008–2011, the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC) was conducted to collect data towards the EU’s indicator on language competences.
  • The third period starts in late 2015, with the EU moving towards closer cooperation with Member States to promote integrated approaches to learning, teaching and assessment not only in education, but also across a variety of policy fields, such as employment or social integration.
  • Rather than regularly repeating the ESLC, as initially planned, and given the difficulty of comparing results from national exams, in September 2015 the EU shifted the policy focus towards integrated approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.
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Can global cities have a language policy?

  • Major cities are becoming ever more linguistically diverse – the outcome of increased mobility, but also of greater opportunities that immigrant communities have to support and maintain their languages through access to resources, communication technologies, and increasing social acceptability of multi-layered identities.
  • In diverse, post-industrial urban settings with a constant influx of new arrivals and a need for economic diversification, language provisions are key to ensuring access to services and employment, supporting cultural heritage and community cohesion, and harnessing skills to support global outreach for economic growth and development.
  • The complexity and rapid pace of change in urban settings mean that extensive, top-down regulatory frameworks for specific languages, of the kind that are often employed to protect regional and national languages, are not practical. Instead, policy and provisions must be responsive to demand and they need to involve a network of different players.
  • Changing patterns of demand create a need for constant monitoring and assessment of data. This requires the development of new tools for data compilation and new procedures of data assessment. To ensure proper support for provisions and quality assurance, efforts are needed to increase public awareness of language diversity, to build confidence in multilingualism, and to share and promote good practice in language planning, including teaching and interpreting provisions.
  • The need for new data tools and for public engagement and awareness-raising in regard to the value of languages opens an important space for the civic university, which can become a key player in the urban policy and planning environment.
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