Recommendation 1740 (2006)1
The place of the mother tongue in school education
1. In the Parliamentary Assemblys view, considerations of various
kinds influence the place of the mother tongue in schools. There is the
question of rights, both the right to education and the right to a cultural
identity; there is the preservation of linguistic heritage, at both European
and world levels; there is the promotion of dialogue and exchange through
linguistic diversity; and there are pedagogical factors, to say nothing
of the political use which is often made of the issue.
2. The Assembly has often concerned itself with language matters. Recommendation 814
(1977) on modern languages in Europe, Recommendation
928 (1981) on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages
and dialects in Europe, Recommendation
1203 (1993) on Gypsies in Europe, Recommendation
1291 (1996) on Yiddish culture, Recommendation 1333
(1997) on the Aromanian language and culture, Recommendation
1353 (1998) on access of minorities to higher education, Recommendation
1383 (1998) on linguistic diversification, Recommendation
1521 (2001) on the Csango minority culture in Romania, Recommendation
1539 (2001) on European Year of Languages, Recommendation
1688 (2004) on diaspora cultures and Resolution
1171 (1998) on endangered Uralic minority cultures are examples.
3. The Assembly recalls the importance of the instruments adopted by
the Council of Europe such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages (ETS No. 148) as well as those adopted by other bodies, such
as the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity
of Cultural Expressions.
4. It would be desirable to encourage, as far as possible, young Europeans
to learn their mother tongue (or main language) when this is not an official
language of their country.
5. At the same time, every young European has the duty to learn an official
language of the country of which he or she is a citizen.
6. The language which is the vehicle of instruction has a crucial role
in that it is the key to classroom communication and consequently to pupils acquisition
of knowledge. A great deal of research has confirmed that types of education
based on the mother tongue significantly increase the chances of educational
success and can even give better results.
7. In European societies, everyday use of the official language is the
main precondition for the integration of children whose main language is
different from the official one of the country or region. However, a large
amount of research yields common results on one point: immediate schooling
of such children in a language they do not know well, or not at all, seriously
jeopardises their chances of academic success. Conversely, bilingual education
based on the mother tongue is the basis for long-term success.
8. Recent studies have shown that the ideas that every language is linked
to a particular culture and that bilingualism ultimately excludes the individual
from both cultures are mistaken. The view that bilingualism or plurilingualism
is a burden on pupils is also incorrect they are assets.
9. There are various ways in which bilingualism in children can be supported
by education systems. They can be distinguished by their political objectives:
maintaining a minority language, revitalising a less widespread language
or integrating children who speak a foreign language into the dominant
society. There are appropriate bilingual educational models in all cases.
Which is chosen will depend on prior reflection and a transparent decision
on objectives, negotiated with those directly concerned.
10. Strong bilingual educational models which aim to equip
the future adult with real bi/plurilingual proficiency have many advantages
over weak models which treat bilingualism as an intermediate
stage between mother-tongue monolingualism and official-language monolingualism
rather than as an end in itself. These advantages concern both the people
who benefit from such models and the societies that provide them. In all
cases, however, the condition for success is that bilingual educational
programmes should last several years.
11. Particular attention should be paid to the case of regional languages
exclusively spoken in a country with a different official language or which
are spoken in more than one country but are not official languages in any
of them, as well as in the case of deterritorialised or diaspora languages.
Significant support by educational systems can be the condition upon which
the very survival of these languages may depend.
12. The Assembly accordingly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
12.1. inventory the different models and types of bilingual education
12.2. promote exchange and meetings between practitioners involved
in bilingual education;
12.3. prepare a recommendation inviting the governments of member states
12.3.1 develop bilingual and plurilingual education on the basis
of the principles set out above;
12.3.2. foster development of childrens plurilingual repertoires
and give substantial support to all languages in childrens repertoires;
12.3.3. propose, whenever appropriate and useful, strong support
in their mother tongue for children for whom it is not an official
language of the state;
12.3.4. promote threatened languages with parents and communities
so that their commitment to their language receives support and reinforcement;
12.3.5. develop and implement policies for the use of languages in
education, in open dialogue and permanent consultation with the concerned
12.4. invite those member states that have not yet done so to sign
and ratify the relevant instruments adopted by the Council of Europe
1 Assembly debate on
10 April 2006 (9th Sitting) (see Doc.10837,
report of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, rapporteur: Mr
Text adopted by the Assembly on 10 April 2006 (9th Sitting).