European Survey on Language Competences: Language Proficiency in England

Rebecca Wheater, Jo Morrison, Bethan Burge, Robert Ager, Rachel Cunningham, Rose Cook, Harriet Weaving

14 February 2013

The European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC) is a survey of foreign language proficiency organised by the European Commission. This is the first time the survey has been run. The survey was undertaken in fourteen European countries (Belgium tested its French, Flemish and German communities separately, so there are results for sixteen jurisdictions). In England the survey was carried out on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) by NFER.

ESLC assesses pupils' ability to understand spoken or written texts and to express themselves in writing. The languages included in ESLC are the five most widely taught languages in Europe: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Each jurisdiction tested pupils in two languages, those most widely taught of the five tested in ESLC.

Performance on the ESLC can be interpreted with reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) levels of proficiency. The CEFR describes the knowledge and skills language learners need to acquire in order for them to communicate effectively. The results for the ESLC are shown as the proportion of pupils in each jurisdiction achieving each of the CEFR levels for reading, listening and writing.

This report presents England’s achievement data alongside the contextual information provided by the survey questionnaires (more detailed analyses of international results can be found in the international report published by European Commission). The report explores the contextual factors that are related to achievement in England.

Key Findings

  • the relationship between gender, socio-economic status and language proficiency
  • the relationship between several contextual factors regarding pupils and language learning and their language proficiency
  • the relationship between a number of school and teacher level contextual factors and pupil’s language proficiency.
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