The Development of Minimum Standards on Language Education in Regional and Minority Languages


Mercator: European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, Netherlands, The


In theory language learning policies and activities include national language(s), minority and immigrant languages as well as foreign languages. In practice, however, most of the studies and projects are focused on the teaching and learning of foreign languages and some of them on the learning and teaching of the mother-tongue(s). Only few projects are focused on the learning and teaching of regional or minority languages. This study aims to provide a description of minimum conditions and minimum provisions required to establish common standards for education of regional and minority languages. The conditions and provisions are described in terms of time investment (both teaching in and teaching of languages), teaching materials, teacher qualifications, educational models and finally control mechanisms employed by the inspectorate. The description country by country, language by language can be considered as a more detailed analysis of the ratification levels mentioned in article 8 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Council of Europe 1992 / 1998; (ETS 148). From the comparison of levels of ratification and legal measures with regard to several languages in different member states, a general overview can be given of legal status and educational measures which treaty parties have in common.

The implementation of these measures in educational practice is analysed in national periodic reports and evaluated by the Committee of Experts of the European Charter.

This study contains a comparative description of the various positions held by the regional or minority languages. For this study 8 countries and 10 languages were selected: Austria (Croatian, Slovene), Germany (Upper and Lower Sorbian), the Netherlands (Frisian), Slovakia (Hungarian), Slovenia (Italian), Spain (Catalan), Sweden (Sami) and the United Kingdom (Welsh).

For each minority language, the descriptions concern:

the level of ratification;

the number of users of the minority language;

education goals; & educational models;

time investment (subject and medium of instruction);

teaching materials;

teacher qualifications; & teacher training;

the legal position and authority within the respective country.

Basic information was gathered from the national periodic reports, evaluation reports by the Committee of Experts, reports of the Council of Europe to the member states and also from relevant Regional Dossiers of Mercator Education and the Euromosaic project. Additional information was collected from internal Council of Europe publications. From all these documents minimum standards can be derived.

Further perspective

On the basis of the result of this study which is concentrated mainly on the conditions for “good education”, a next step in research can be taken with regard to the common goals of education of regional and minority languages. An instrument of great help for this study is the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

Session: Paper session
Planning/Policy 4 (Education)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 14