ESLC is a European Commission research project, providing information about foreign language learning in Europe. It assesses the language proficiency of students at the end of Key Stage 4 in 14 European countries, and allows researchers to collect extensive background information about foreign language teaching, which can be used to make comparisons between participating countries. The implications of the findings from this survey will be taken into account in formulating national policy.
In 2002 the European Council called for further action to 'improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least 2 foreign languages from a very early age', and for the 'establishment of the linguistic competence indicator'. This decision arose from the current lack of data on the actual language skills of pupils and the need for reliable data to measure the progress towards this new objective.
In response to this call the European Commission established the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC). The ESLC is the first survey of its type and aims to be a key tool for European governments to use in developing language-learning policies. It will help governments to understand existing levels of second language proficiency and how those levels compare to other countries. It will also provide information on how language proficiency relates to demographic, social, economic and educational variables. Information in the survey can then be used to influence policy and improve national standards.
The survey is run internationally by SurveyLang, this is an international consortium made up of eight organisations, each one a leader in its own area of expertise. The consortium brings together knowledge and experience in the fields of language assessment, test development, sampling and data collection, as well as in educational measurement, cognitive psychology, research design, pscyhometrics, and data analysis.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to run ESLC in England.
The ESLC survey
The survey will compare foreign language learning for pupils in the final year of lower secondary education (for England this is at the end of Key Stage 4) using the scales of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). It will focus on the two most popular foreign languages studied in each of the participating countries, which according to the most recent Eurostat data are: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. In England the survey will test French and German.
Student's proficiency in listening, reading and writing will be assessed using tasks that will:
- engage cognitive skills expected for the age group
- not depend on knowledge of the world which cannot be assumed
- use topics which are relevant and engaging for that age group
- test language functions in contexts relevant to the age group.
The ESLC Main Study will take place in October and November 2011.
- 151 schools will take part in the survey, 74 schools for French and 77 schools for German. The schools will be sampled by the SurveyLang consortium.
- A maximum of 35 Year 11 students per school will be selected to take part in the survey.
- Data is collected from school questionnaire, teacher questionnaire and student questionnaire.
What will schools need to do?
Schools sampled to take part in the Main Study for ESLC will need to:
- Supply a list of all students learning the target language (either French or German).
- Administer a short multiple-choice test (Routing Test) to all students, in the relevant year group, learning the target language. The results from this test will be used to establish the level at which the student will be tested. Not all students that take the Routing Test will be sampled for participation in the survey.
- Inform the students who have been selected to take part in the survey.
- Have accommodation available for administering the survey.
- The headteacher and teachers of the target language at Key Stage 4 (either French or German) will complete an on-line questionnaire.
What will happen to the results in England?
- NFER will use the data to create feedback for each participating school.
- The survey will also provide information on how language proficiency relates to demographic, social, economic and educational variables in England.
- Results from the survey will help the Government to understand existing levels of foreign language proficiency in England and how those levels compare to other countries. There will be no publication of the results for individual schools.
The European Survey on Language Competences - http://www.surveylang.org/