Committee Reports::Report No. 23 - Teaching of Languages in the Community::08 November, 1978::Report



1. The Joint Committee has examined a Communication sent by the Commission to the Council on 22 June, 1978 on the subject of teaching of languages in the Community [R/1683/78 (EN 29)]. The Committee understands that, as requested by the Commission, the Communication is to be considered at the next meeting in Council of the Ministers of Education. The Communication is at present under examination by the Education Committee set up by the Council on 9 February, 1976.

2. In its resolution of 9 February, 1976 the Council agreed on objectives and first measures for the encouragement of the extension of language teaching for pupils in the Community. In its Communication of 22 June, 1978 the Commission is proposing a plan designed to “give continuing opportunities for language teaching from an early age in primary school through the different stages of education to higher and adult education”.

Outline of Commission’s Proposals

3. The plan suggested by the Commission would be carried out in the period 1980-3 and would involve expenditure both by the Community and Member States. It contains the following elements:—

(a) Initial Training of Teachers

The objective is to ensure that trainee language teachers would spend a period of study in the country the language of which they intend to teach. Per capita grants would be paid by the Community.

(b) Continuing Training of Teachers

Provision of long term (3-5 years) interchange of teachers and medium term (1 year) and short term teacher exchanges or visits are envisaged. The proposal is that the latter two be financed by the Community as to 50%.

(c) Early Foreign Language Teaching

An appraisal by Member States of introducing more extensive teaching of Community languages at primary level. A number of pilot projects would be set up with Community financial support.

(d) Mobility and Exchange of Students

This would involve (i) group visits and exchanges for pupils aged 11 to 16, (ii) vacation activities for students between 16 and 19 years of age, (iii) initiation of certain pilot projects and (iv) development and linking of national advisory and information services.

(e) Teaching Less Able Pupils

Establishment of a series of pilot projects is envisaged.

(f) Teaching Adults

A special study at Community level is proposed.

(g) Schools Teaching more than one Language

Increased intervention from the Social Fund for teaching children of migrant workers is suggested.

Promotion of the adaptation of existing schools to meet needs of local and foreign children is also mooted.

(h) Information/Documentation Services

The European Information Network which the Community is to establish in 1979 will provide specialised information on foreign language teaching as a matter of priority.

Views of the Joint Committee

4. The Commission lays stress on the fact that the development of greater understanding among the peoples of the Community and the effective exercise of their rights to free movement and of the right of establishment is dependent to a large extent on their ability to communicate through a second Community language. The Joint Committee would add that in the case of Ireland, increasing contact and trade with the Continent since our accession to the Community has brought with it a clear need for more and more people with a command of Continental languages. In recent times there have been efforts made in this country to make up for the comparative neglect of the past but much remains to be done. For example, the range of choice of languages available to secondary school students leaves much to be desired. Moreover, it is patently unsatisfactory that there are still no oral tests for secondary students taking public examinations.

5. The Joint Committee believes that a Community involvement in the teaching of languages would be very much in Ireland’s interest. It, therefore, welcomes the Commission’s initiative and urges that it be supported enthusiastically. Indeed in Ireland’s case where so much leeway has to be made up there is a case for special treatment. In the Committee’s view it would not be unreasonable in the case of Ireland for Community contributions to be made on the basis of 70 or 75 per cent of the cost instead of the 50 per cent envisaged by the Commission.

6. The Commission is seeking to ensure that both student and practising teachers spend a period in the country the language of which they propose to or actually teach. The Joint Committee agrees that this is most desirable but it believes that language teachers should also be enabled to exercise the right of free movement which they are supposed to enjoy under the Treaty of Rome. Qualified teachers of acceptable linguistic competence should be enabled to teach their own language in other Member States. This would, of course, involve adopting a Council Directive providing for the mutual recognition of qualifications but there is a clear duty imposed by the Treaty on the Community institutions to make such provision.

7. The age at which the study of a Continental language can be most usefully begun is obviously a matter of considerable importance. The Joint Committee notes that the Commission is proposing that a limited number of pilot projects be undertaken in primary schools with Community financial support. The Joint Committee hopes that this suggestion will be adopted by the Council and implemented in Ireland in due course.

Debate in Seanad Éireann

8. In view of the importance of the subject of teaching Continental languages the Joint Committee requests that a debate take place on this report in Seanad Éireann. In this connection the Joint Committee refers to the Order of Seanad Éireann of 3rd May, 1978.


9. The Joint Committee wishes to acknowledge the considerable assistance it has received from the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation in considering the Commission’s Communication and to express its sincere thanks to both bodies.


Chairman of the Joint Committee.

8th November, 1978.