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Durham University

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Publication details

Byram, Michael (2020). Politics, origins and futures of the CEFR. The Language Learning Journal

Author(s) from Durham


The CEFR was conceived as part of the Council of Europe’s project ‘Language Learning for European Citizenship’. The social and political context out of which this project grew has often been lost from view. This is perhaps due to the success of the CEFR not only within Europe but also worldwide. That success is largely due to the quality of the scaling of competences in the CEFR. The CEFR is used for planning and evaluating curricula, certifications, examinations, textbooks and so on. There is however little attention to the political context of its past and the possible scenarios of its future. Here I locate the CEFR in its political context and purpose, and analyse some of the ideas of its origins. Although time has passed, the contemporary socio-political situation in Europe is such that we should attend to the educational philosophy of the CEFR and consider how it and its companion volume, can be part of the response of language teaching to the demands of our time. Finally, I demonstrate how language teaching can take a proactive role in, and have a much closer relationship with, (active) citizenship and a European, internationalist education for citizenship.