Language Educational Policy and Language Learning Quality Management: The Common European Framework of Reference

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The major goal of the Council of Europe to promote and facilitate communication and interaction among Europeans of different mother tongues has led to the development of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR). Among other things, the CEFR is intended to help language professionals reflect on their current practice and situate and coordinate their efforts. The last two objectives are similar to quality management goals. The aim of this article is to present a standard model of quality management, and show how the CEFR may be used to introduce quality management goals in foreign language learning settings to improve the quality of foreign language teaching and learning and to document its results.

Key words: Common European Framework of Reference, language learning and teaching, language policy, quality management, standards

Language: Relevant to all languages

Introduction

Language policy is often described as a long-term sustained and conscious effort to alter a language or change a language's functions in a society for the purpose of solving communication problems (Weinstein, as cited in Beer & Jacob, 1985). Language education policy also is seen as a means of solving communication problems, across borders and internationally. A seemingly perennial example of how political institutions aim to control languages in the United States is the debate about bilingual education (cf. Crawford, 2007). A prominent example of successful language (education) policy from Europe is the development of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR, Council of Europe, 2001; cf. Baker, 2002; Little, 2003; Morrow, 2004). This particular language policy initiative is a reflection of the political and social realities of a multilingual and multicultural Europe that aims to form a single European education, employment, and residential space for its citizens (Fulcher, 2004; Hudson, 2005; Schmenk, 2004). The CEFR has changed how foreign languages are taught, learned, and evaluated in Europe in a substantial way and is considered to be "one of the most important documents in the fields of language learning and teaching in Europe" (Schmenk, 2004, p. 9).

There are 35 official and 185 recorded languages within the Council of Europe's 43 member states (Daoust, 1997). In the 1980s, the Council of Europe recognized that it was not only linguistic diversity that prevented interaction and mobility, but also the fact that because of differing educational traditions and different ways of teaching and assessing foreign language competences, it was very difficult to know how well someone could use a foreign language simply by looking at his or her language certificates (Trim, 2001).

While the Council of Europe's language policy highlights the importance of communicating across cultures, it also champions plurilingualism and the preservation of linguistic diversity (Hudson, 2005; Little, 2003; Morrow, 2004). This is evident in the first and second of three basic principles set down by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which state:

* that the rich heritage of diverse languages and cultures in Europe is a valuable common resource to be protected and developed, and that a major educational effort is needed to convert that diversity from a barrier to communication into a source of mutual enrichment and understanding [and]

* that it is only through a better knowledge of European modem languages that it will be possible to facilitate communication and interaction among Europeans of different mother tongues in order to promote European mobility, mutual understanding and co-operation, and overcome prejudice and discrimination. (Council of Europe, 1982, p. 1)

Preserving this linguistic and cultural diversity while promoting communication, interaction, and mobility within a growing European Union and across all of Europe led to the development of the CEFR. …