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Research report

Lessons from abroad: international review of primary languages

Teresa Tinsley and Therese Comfort

This report offers a comparative perspective on the debate on language learning in schools within England, examining the research evidence and showing how other countries are tackling the typical issues and challenges.

The English national curriculum is currently under review, and with it the place of the study of foreign languages. Ministers have set their goal to see education in England comparing more favourably with the best performing school systems across the world, and wish to learn from policy and practice overseas. In the words of former Secretary of State Michael Gove, the curriculum should reflect ‘the best collective wisdom we have about how children learn, what they should know and how quickly they can grow in knowledge’. This study, commissioned by CfBT Education Trust (now Education Development Trust), aims to provide an evidence base on language learning in primary curricula across the world to help achieve that aspiration.

The study includes examples from Europe, Asia, America and Australia, in order to encompass a wide range of practices. It aims to improve understanding of research evidence and ways of tackling key issues that, despite differences of context, we have in common with other education systems. The report is the result of a review of well over 100 documents, selected from bibliographic databases and international websites for their relevance to the current debate.