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    Programme 2012-2015
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    Success factors
ECML ProgrammE 2012-2015

Towards whole school language curricula
Examples of practice in schools

These resources provide tools which help to clarify, develop and implement plurilingual, intercultural and inclusive whole school policies in different contexts in ECML member states.

Getting started Success factors Examples Videos 

Success factors for the implementation of whole school language curricula

A positive attitude towards all languages

A whole school language curricula project should be implemented only by individuals with a fundamentally positive attitude towards plurilingualism and all languages and language varieties. There should be no 'important' or 'unimportant' languages. Maintaining heritage languages should not impede the learning of the language of teaching. Of course, this does not mean that all languages have to be present during all activities – this may not be possible – but no languages present in a school should be automatically excluded. In the long term, all languages in a school should be included in curriculum planning.

The ability to surrender power

Teachers must be willing to deal with languages that they do not speak. Of course, this does not mean yielding their fundamental role as an authority figure (and ultimately as the individual bearing responsibility and giving grades). However, it does mean admitting a lack of knowledge to pupils and accepting the fact that pupils know this, and that pupils are capable of doing something the teacher cannot do and also knowing something the teacher does not know (such as being able to explain something to a new pupil in their common heritage language or what a certain ritual is called in a language that they do not know).

Motivation and perseverance

The ability to persevere and motivate oneself to integrate whole school language curricula ideas into teaching practices is crucial, as is the ability to link these ideas with colleagues’ teaching and to frequently reinvent these ideas, to defend them against criticism and justify them to everyone involved.

Collegiality and teamwork

A high level of collegiality and intensive teamwork are basic conditions that are required for the successful implementation of plurilingualism and a whole school language curricula, and for the implementation of individual aspects of a whole school curricula. The occasions on which whole school language curricula activities can be introduced by one person are rare. The help of colleagues, not to mention pupils and in many cases parents, is needed.

Support by school heads and boards

Active support from school heads and boards is important. If a headmaster or headmistress likes the ideas for plurilingualism within their school and provides scope for their development, it will be easier to implement these ideas than having to do so without his or her support. In addition, there will be fewer institutional obstacles if school boards support the ideas. Under these conditions, initially small-scale initiatives can grow, before being attached permanently at a later date to other initiatives, to which ideally they would be linked.

Teacher training to familiarise staff with the concept of a whole school language curricula

Just as I needed to familiarise myself with the whole school language curricula concept, it is helpful for interested colleagues to receive training in this area. At the very least, the entire teaching staff should be given a general introduction to the concept. While this does not mean that everyone will be on board immediately (and some colleagues will never be convinced . . .), it provides an opportunity to inspire interest among other colleagues.

Communication in the school community (teachers, pupils, parents) 

The school community, the parent-teacher association and parents should all be informed of the concept and brought on board. Many projects have used the topic of food successfully, for example: at either the beginning or the end of a teaching unit, families have enthusiastically participated in languages cafes and buffets. When it comes to supporting language projects, the families provide huge quantities of tasty food. Clearly, eating together provides an excellent opportunity for people to eliminate prejudices and reject stereotypes. In every instance, the groups that initiated and organised this multilingual culinary experience grew together and planned other activities.

Of course, the most important goal is to inspire pupils. If they want to participate and be part of the initiative because they think it is worthwhile and fun, and feel it is something they want to do, it is easier to get their parents on board. 

When to introduce and initiate the project

Timing is an important factor for the successful implementation of a whole school language curricula or indeed aspects of one. It is easier to introduce whole school language curricula if reforms are already in the pipeline and there is a positive attitude towards innovation, with new features being well received. These conditions are more conducive to success than if people are feeling put upon and overwhelmed, and are not particularly inclined to try out new things. 

Last but not least

The success of every project included on this website relied on the factors and conditions mentioned above.

We wish you a great deal of success in the implementation of your own whole school language curricula ideas and initiatives. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the PlurCur team.