PRIMIS - Note on teaching regional or minority languages in EU schools


Recent report of the Eurydice network The teaching of regional or minority languages in schools in Europe  produced for the second edition of the European Education Summit promoted by the EU DG for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and published in September 2019, offers an overview of regional or minority languages spoken in the EU.

In the EU there are in fact about 60 indigenous regional or minority languages recognized and promoted by the educational authorities of the respective European countries, which have to be added to the 24 official languages. In many of these countries, they have an official status, that is, they are used for legal and administrative purposes in specific areas of the country, alongside the official language.

 The Report presents some examples of political initiatives and national measures to support the teaching of regional or minority languages in schools, with particular reference to:

  •  the use of regional or minority languages by higher education authorities in official documents of primary and secondary education in public and private schools (national curricula or education programs, evaluation documents or national exams, or recommendations that encourage schools to offer lessons in these languages);
  • some policies and measures on the teaching of regional or minority languages in act in various European education systems;
  • some projects financed by the Erasmus+ and Creative Europe programs, to support the learning of regional or minority languages.

According to Eurydice, educational authorities play an important role in the protection and promotion of regional or minority languages. The figure is relevant if we consider that the majority of the national education systems of the 34 countries participating in the Erasmus+ program considered for the purpose of the Report refer to regional or minority languages in their official documents. The number of languages, however, varies considerably between national education systems, both for the different political commitments to preserve and promote regional or minority languages, and for the specific linguistic case of each country. Without considering that in several countries the official education documents refer to multiple languages (in 1 country out of 6 more than ten languages).

The Report highlights how the teaching of these languages takes place within a school curriculum, which can promote the teaching of languages at various levels. Language-promoting schools take advantage of students’ different linguistic backgrounds to increase students' cultural and linguistic awareness. Furthermore, a further positive factor is the promotion of a climate conducive to language learning.

Policies and measures collected in this Report can be grouped into several categories; in some countries (most) they focus on teaching regional or minority languages in schools (including history and culture), in others regional or minority languages are used as the target language for some or all others school subjects. Finally, in some cases regional or minority languages are promoted beyond the school curriculum. Furthermore, in some countries specific policies exist to support the development of schools with teaching in minority languages (as in the case of the smaller number of students per class).

In all cases, the Report highlights the existence of specific laws and funding as a necessary condition, in order to guarantee the availability of resources useful for developing the teaching of regional or minority languages. These resources include training and support for regional or minority language teachers, relevant teaching materials and additional resources, such as cultural centres, websites, exhibits, etc..

 Finally, the Eurydice Report highpoints - with examples - the important role of funding through the Erasmus+ and Creative Europe European programs to support regional or minority language learning, the impact of which benefits the sectors of school education, vocational education and training (VET) but also of adult learning, as well as of the cultural, creative and audio-visual sectors, as well as promoting people mobility and cross-border and transnational partnerships.