Modern language education policy and its implementations in primary schools in urban European contexts

Jessica Lueth

Research output: Other contributionPhD thesis (not Bristol)


Since the foundation of the Council of Europe in 1949 and the establishment of the European Union in 1993 including the accessions of new member states, the status, the use and the teaching of languages in different contexts on a European level have been the subject of policy making, resulting in a considerable amount of research. However, much less is known about how European policy is appropriated at national, regional and local levels, and the consequent impact on the implementation processes. As a response, this thesis focuses on two European language education objectives in the context of primary education in England, Germany, and Spain: first, the objective that every citizen in Europe has the opportunity to learn two languages in addition to his or her first language from an early age on; second, the objective of maintaining ethnolinguistic diversity. Drawing on literature on language education policy, multilingualism and modern language education, a case study of six primary schools, two each in London, Hamburg, and Madrid explores the local language educational policies and practices in order to show how the two European language education objectives are interpreted and to what extent the schools' practices reflect them. The descriptive-exploratory study is based on empirical data from three different data sources, i. e. document analyses, semistructured interviews and classroom observations, in order to obtain an in-depth account of each school's policies and practices in relation to languages and language education. The interview analyses across all cases provide a mosaic of interpretations of concepts that relate to the above-mentioned two European language education objectives. Key findings include a gap between de jure language education policies (LEP) on the European level and on the national, regional, and/or local levels. Members of staff at schools either demonstrate uncertainty about what European LEP entail, or their interpretations of the above-mentioned European LEP objectives and related concepts vary noticeably. The interpretations of LEP are context-sensitive, individual and liable to change, and divergent interpretations result in different de facto modern language education practices at schools, which are not necessarily in line with de jure LEP. Therefore, an implication of this study is a need for reconsidering and extending the concept of LEP as being multi-layered and multilevel, with de jure and de facto manifestations, and with context-sensitivity as one of its inherent properties. Furthermore, this study suggests some practical implications for policy makers on all levels - local, regional, national, European - as well as for members of staff working in language education in schools.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD thesis
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • European language education policy (L1+2)
  • multilingualism
  • language education
  • language policy
  • primary education
  • modern languages


Dive into the research topics of 'Modern language education policy and its implementations in primary schools in urban European contexts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this