Call for minimum standards for education in regional or minority languages

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat May 19 15:05:48 UTC 2007

Mercator Education: call for minimum standards for education in regional
or minority languages

Ljouwert, Monday, 14 May 2007 by Onno P. Falkena

The European rules on the teaching of minority languages need to become
much clearer according to the findings of a conference held in Ljouwert,
Friesland, on Multilingualism and Language Learning, and organised by
Mercator Education. The Frisian minister for education, Bertus Mulder,
pleaded for clear European standards for education in minority languages
as an addition to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Good education in minority languages means that the teachers have to be
well trained and that the inspectorate for education also pays attention
to the teaching of minority languages'', Mulder explains. Clear standards
and guidelines might help us to move forward.''

At the end of this month Mulder will present the report 'Development of
Minimum Standards for Education in Regional or Minority Languages' at the
plenary meeting of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE)
of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. After this meeting the report will
be forwarded to the Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe. If the
report is accepted it will help to clarify what it takes to offer 'a
substantial part' of the education in a minority language and what a state
should do to meet the requirements after ratifying the charter. At the
conference in Ljouwert civil servants, scientists, politicians and
language activists from 22 linguistic communities from across Europe
discussed the findings in the report.

We have been working with the Charter for ten years, and it is about time
to make the articles on education more specific'', says Mulder. Many
states have ratified the article that 'a substantial part' of primary
education should be given in the minority language. But what does that
mean - a substantial part? And which are the problems we have to face in
order to have a substantial part of our education in the minority
language? When the Netherlands ratified the minister believed that the
Netherlands fulfilled this demand, while many schools in Friesland only
taught Frisian for one hour a week!'' One hour weekly is far from 'a
substantial part' in the view of Mulder, one day a week would be better as
a minimum standard. There should be continuity in the teaching of minority
languages and the language should also be used in the teaching of other

At the conference it became clear that throughout Europe similar problems
occur. In various countries minority language teacher training courses are
scarce. For some languages the availability of teaching materials is very
limited. Inspectors of public education are often not trained and
sometimes even not informed about the education of minority languages. In
some cases it is not clear whether minority language education is
supervised at all. At the conference the Basque minister of education,
Tontxu Campos, signed a letter of intent for an agreement with the
Mercator Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning. In the
coming four years Mercator will carry out several projects for the Basque
Autonomous Government. One of the plans is to investigate the added value
of multilingual education.  Added to this more Basque schools will
participate in Mercators Network of Schools project. Mercator will also
organise European seminars about Basque education in Friesland.

Durk Gorter of the Mercator Research Centre commented that he hopes that
in future other regional governments with minority languages will follow
the example of Basque educational practices. (Eurolang 2007)

Conference website

Network of schools

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal.


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list