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March 1999 - Issue No. #34 (p.7)

The following article is reprinted with permission in edited form from FIPLV World News No. 44 (December 1998).

The Contribution of Language Teaching to the Promotion of Peace

Report on the September 1998 Workshop of the European Centre of Modern Languages

A special symposium on the Contribution of Modern Language Teaching to the Promotion of Peace was held from September 30 - October 3, 1998 in Graz, Austria by the European Centre of Modern Languages (ECML). The meeting was jointly organized by ECML, IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language), FIPLV (the World Federation of Modern Language Teaching Associations) and UNESCO's Linguapax Committee.

The symposium brought together representatives from 27 European countries, with an emphasis on those located in recent or potential conflict zones such as the Balkans. Its objectives were to make language teachers aware of the crucial role they play in developing a spirit of tolerance and the promotion of a culture of peace, and to offer avenues for reflection as well as concrete methods of working towards these goals. The workshop resulted in the following recommendations being drafted.

Recommendations to National, Regional and Local Political Authorities

  • to take action to ensure that the political convictions developed and expressed within society, and the interpretations of history disseminated in each country, do not contribute to the development of intolerance and xenophobia;

  • to ensure that religious convictions do not promote intolerance;

  • to ensure that the media present a positive image of otherness and diversity;

  • to take all necessary measures to improve the status of the various languages present in their territories, including the languages of migrants, and to take all necessary measures likely to favour the development of a positive collective attitude towards these languages and towards linguistic diversity in general;

  • to put an end to administrative obstacles to mobility, in particular between neighbouring countries, and to take action to make this mobility more accessible financially;

  • to set up specific training (initial and in-service) for language teachers enabling them to teach in a manner conducive to the promotion of peace;

  • to support the production and dissemination of appropriate teaching materials with this aim;

  • to take measures likely to help teachers to overcome the practical difficulties they face in setting up exchanges (of pupils, teachers or correspondence) such as financial difficulties, accommodation problems, and work overload;

  • to ensure the genuine presence of peace education questions in curricula;

  • to promote the definition and dissemination of content and strategies which promote peace in modern language teaching, and which promote conflict resolution techniques;

  • to encourage reflection aimed at better defining key concepts such as peace, tolerance, coexistence, intercultural, foreign language ... and to establish an appropriate terminology;

  • to encourage reflection aimed at understanding more fully and systematically the whole sphere of interactions between different elements (tolerance, democracy, human rights, social justice...) which constitute the essential components of a culture of peace, in view of the contribution by schools;

  • to encourage collective reflection by teachers and educational specialists on the content of a professional ethics relative to the teaching of modern languages which takes account of the responsibilities towards individuals and societies.

Recommendation to the Council of Europe

  • to pursue efforts (in terms of both theory and practice) to promote the adoption into modern language teaching of objectives related to peace, particularly within the framework of the current Modern Languages Project: "Language policies for a multilingual and multicultural Europe".

Recommendations to the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) in Graz

  • to pursue efforts to spread among teachers an awareness of the opportunities and responsibilities they have in view of the contribution of language teaching to the development of a culture of peace, and knowledge and competence of the techniques and content likely to help them provide this.

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