Language learning for success in an interconnected world

Woman learning mandarin chinese on mobile phone application

By Catalina Covacevich

Analyst, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

and Jonah Champaud

Research Assistant, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

Key points:

– Proficiency in more than one language is a key asset for employability and cross-cultural communication.
– From 2025, the OECD’s PISA test will assess foreign languages.
– The framework for this assessment will be launched at a European Day of Languages event on 27 September 2021.

In today’s global and connected world, proficiency in more than one language is a fundamental tool for communicating and interacting with others and a key asset for employability. Fifteen-year-old Leonard from Spain – one of several students who shared their thoughts on language learning with us – is aware of these benefits:

I like learning English because I feel that it helps me understand more things, and nowadays speaking English is basic. Everyone assumes you speak it. Also, it is an easy language to learn and is very global. It’s necessary for any job”  

Students across the world share Leonard’s motivation to learn foreign languages. But having motivated students is not enough. They need their schools to offer them the opportunity to learn.

Many governments are rising to this challenge and are investing significant resources in foreign language teaching and learning. However, they have questions about whether they are succeeding in delivering high quality teaching. Are their students achieving the expected learning goals? How do their students perform compared to students from other countries? Are their policies and instructional methods effective? Where should they concentrate their efforts with limited resources?

The PISA 2025 Foreign Language Assessment

PISA – the world’s largest assessment of education systems – will allow governments to answer these fundamental questions, by incorporating for the first time an assessment of foreign languages.

‌‌Starting in 2025, 15-year-old students will be tested in English as a foreign language. The assessment will then be repeated every six years to monitor trends, and progressively cover other languages. It will be an optional component for countries.

The assessment will be composed of a test to assess foreign language proficiency, which in the first round will focus on reading, listening and speaking skills. It will also include a set of questionnaire modules to collect context and policy-relevant information.

Launch of the framework during the European Day of Languages

The PISA 2025 Foreign Language Assessment framework presents the guiding principles behind the assessment. Its development was co-funded by the European Commission, which has been fundamental in the development of the assessment by providing financial support and expertise built on previous work at EU level.

The framework will be launched during the European Day of Languages event on 27 September. This day has been established as a yearly opportunity to raise awareness around language learning and to encourage people of all ages to learn languages – knowing more than one language makes it easier to connect with people, to grow.

The framework will be launched during the European Day of Languages event on 27 September

A research paper that looks at the relationship between learning foreign languages and students’ expectations  for their future will also be launched at the event. The paper, “How language learning opens doors”, has been developed by the OECD with co-funding from the European Commission.

This year’s event will also provide an opportunity to learn more about the PISA Foreign Language Assessment before countries decide on their participation next year.

Watch the trailer for the event:


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Photo: Shutterstock/Daxiao Productions