Language Education Study

Initially planned as a three-phase project, the IEA Language Education Study aimed to describe the policies and curricula for language education and assess student achievement in language learning. Due to lack of funding, only Phase 1 on the policy context was completed.

Phase 1 of the study focused on providing "national profiles" of language education in participating countries, including language policies, curricula, opportunities for language use and learning outside of school, and characteristics of teachers. In 1995, data were collected on four languages commonly taught as a school subject: English, French, German, and Spanish.

Target population

Information was gathered for two key points in secondary schooling: the end of compulsory schooling (15- to 16-year-old students in most countries) and the end of upper-secondary schooling (17- to 18-year-old students).

Participating education systems

Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and United States.

Key findings

In most of the countries, students first received instruction in a foreign language in elementary school. In many cases a second foreign language was also offered or required at the elementary school level. In Thailand, English was a compulsory subject in the first grade. In Austria and Italy, compulsory foreign language instruction began at the third grade.

The most often taught foreign language was English, followed by French and German. In border regions, however, the first foreign language was often that of a neighboring country.

In the majority of participating countries, more than 50% of foreign language teachers had a degree qualification in the language they taught. Some countries, however, reported a shortage of foreign language teachers.

Major publications

Dickson, P., & Cumming, A. (Eds.). (1996). Profiles of language education in 25 countries: Overview of Phase 1 of the IEA Language Education Study. Slough, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research.