The ‘English as a Lingua Franca Practices for Inclusive Multilingual Classrooms (ENRICH)’ project puts high priority on the promotion of teacher competences which are necessary for responding to and building upon the diversity found in today’s multilingual classrooms across Europe. To this end, it aims at developing a high-quality Continuous Professional Development (CPD) infrastructure which will empower English language teachers (ELTs) to integrate in multilingual classrooms the current role of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), i.e. as the most frequently employed means of international and intercultural communication. ENRICH places strong emphasis on supporting ELTs in:
- exploiting the benefits of ELF in adopting an inclusive pedagogical approach in multilingual classrooms, i.e. classrooms with learners having more than one languages at their disposal (irrespective of level of competence), including learners from migrant backgrounds, such as first- and second-generation and newly-arrived immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers;
- using innovative teaching practices, such as translanguaging, and appropriate cultural content to develop the learners’ ELF-related communicative competences and other transversal skills crucial for employability and social inclusion in today’s increasingly multilingual and demanding world.
The priorities of ENRICH are grounded in a variety of studies and reports carried out under the auspices of European Union (EU) Institutions, including the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament (EP). Indeed, the significance of supporting multilingualism is nowadays emphasised within the EU (cf. ‘Conclusions on multilingualism and the development of language competences’, Council of the EU 2014) as, due to globalisation, intra-European mobility and international migration, multilingual classrooms have become the norm rather than an exception in Europe (Eurostat 2017; OECD, PISA 2015). Even though much progress has been made in the framework of the European Strategy for Multilingualism (for an EP study, see Saville & Gutierrez Eugenio 2016), however, research shows that, still, “current attitudes and practices in schools are not conducive to equal treatment of multilingual children” (‘Rethinking language education at schools’, EC 2017, p3). This is especially true as regards children from migrant backgrounds. Research shows, for instance, that, due to “limited access to adequate learner support” for overcoming “language and/or cultural barriers”, immigrant children tend to leave school early (‘Tackling early leaving from education and training’, EC 2015, p4), while, despite attempts fostering integration in schools and the host communities in general, children from refugee and asylum seeking families remain largely disadvantaged, due to “the lack of established networks and opportunities” enabling them to connect with each other and the host communities through “dialogue [and] exchange” in a ‘shared’ language (‘EU-funding for cultural work with refugees’, EP 2017, p21). The fact that teaching multilingual classes, especially classes with learners from migrant backgrounds, is “not sufficiently covered by CPD” (‘School development and excellent teaching’, EC 2017, p15), when, in fact, this area is particularly high among teachers’ training needs (cf. ‘Teaching and Learning International Survey’, EC 2014), plays a major role in this respect.
To truly support learners in multilingual classrooms, including migrants, such as refugees, reach their educational and professional potential, EU educational policy reports highlight the urgent need to “fundamentally rethink” foreign language teaching in view of the demands of the current “increasingly globalised world” (‘Rethinking language education at schools’, EC 2017, pp1-5). This involves helping the learners develop communicative and other transversal skills (e.g. cultural awareness) which are necessary for employability and social inclusion, “through languages of international communication”, which “increase mutual understanding and provide access to other countries and cultures” (ibid). This, of course, requires a “new set of competences for teachers” (‘Rethinking education, investing in skills’, EC 2012, p10). ELTs, in particular, “should acknowledge the new role of English as the lingua franca” in Europe and beyond (EP, op.cit. 2016 p37), i.e. as an inherently multilingual means of English-medium communication among people from different linguacultural backgrounds (‘Conceptualising ELF’, Mauranen 2018) and as a sine qua non for professional success (‘Languages and employability’, EC 2015). CPD is, therefore, crucial so that ELTs raise their awareness of the importance of English in connecting learners with each other, the local communities and the world and are empowered to use innovative language teaching practices, such as translanguaging, and cultural elements which are particularly appropriate to this end (EC, op.cit.2017).