17.04.2018
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ESU response to the Proposal for a Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to language learning in school

Language skills are a core necessity for the internationalisation of education – this inevitably includes higher education.

Sadly, a prevailing trend in Europe seems to be the decline of free and accessible language courses to both students in and out of mobility in Europe. This is according to data collected from National Unions of Students across Europe for the “Bologna With Student Eyes 2018” publication (upcoming in May 2018). Since 2015, a number of countries have experienced a move from free language courses to students in higher education to paid courses, or no courses offered by higher education institutions (HEI) at all. This is a worrying trend, and one we believe should be addressed by the upcoming recommendation regarding language learning in Europe. Leaving higher education out of the recommendation is not a decision we as the representatives of students in Europe can agree with. Increasing literacy in different languages is undoubtedly necessary. However, attention needs to be payed to the lifelong learning aspect of these recommendations – for a comprehensive effect, people who have already graduated from secondary education, and for example are obtaining higher education, should also have access to language learning.

Various aspects of the initiatives the commission seems to be undertaking under the EEA2025 heading are aimed at increased mobility. Lack of language skills continues to be a significant obstacle to mobility in several European countries, e.g. France, where a large part of learners continue to be monolingual. As most international mobility programmes demand working knowledge in English, turning the attention to offering language courses beyond upper-secondary education is absolutely necessary.

Students are not the only group of people in higher education who need further development of language competences. Attention also needs to also be paid to both academic and non-academic staff in higher education institutions… As education inevitably becomes more and more internationalised, lecturers, instructors counselors etc, who are responsible for different aspects of education must also be equipped for an increased amount of international students. A crucial area of concern in this is the availability of student counsellors and support services aimed for students. Students have a right to counselling in their language of learning in any European country.

The European Students’ Union (ESU) believes that mobility, which includes language learning as a level of internationalisation, is a right for all learners. Resources for continuous and tuition-free language courses must be guaranteed by Higher Education Institutions, and governments.

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