Early Language Learning in Pre-primary Education in Portugal: Report

Sandie Mourão, Sónia Ferreirinha

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Second and foreign language projects in pre-primary institutions in Europe have been influenced by a European language education policy in the last decade that stresses the importance of ‘teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age’ (European Commission, 2002: 44). In 2011, the European Commission published a policy handbook to provide guidelines and a set of good practices to support the implementation of language projects in European territory. In this handbook it is recognized that there is ‘little evidence of agreed processes, uniformity of approach or established indicators of achievement in early language learning’ (European Commission, 2011: 14). The most recent Eurydice report (2012) showed that by September 2015, just over a third of the European community will officially implement second or foreign language projects with children of six years and under, many of these children will still be in pre-primary education and English has been noted as the most popular of languages. According to a British Council Survey (Rixon, 2013) English is indeed cascading into pre-primary education and conference presentations, nationwide surveys, research articles and publications are confirming that English is well established in both state and private sectors often without the support of official legislation. The result is a variety of learning experiences within a range of qualities (see examples in chapters in Mourão & Lourenço, 2015; Murphy & Evangelou, 2016). In Portugal anecdotal evidence has shown that the situation is likely to be similar, with the annual conference organised by the Portuguese English Teachers’ Association (Associação Portuguesa de Professores de Inglês - APPI) including sessions for and by pre-primary English teachers since April 20001. More recently APPIforma (the association’s professional development centre) has received a higher than normal number of requests for in-service training courses for English in pre-primary institutions, with a view to training both pre-primary professionals and English teachers. With the recent move in Portugal to make English part of the 1st cycle curriculum from September 2015, the lack of reliable information in relation to the situation in Portugal, and the recognition that there is a surge of interest internationally concerning pre-primary language learning, a study ‘Early language learning in pre-primary education in Portugal’ was initiated by APPI in collaboration with Dr Sandie Mourão, and supported by the Portuguese Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Portuguese Association for Pre-primary Professionals (Associação de Profissionais de Educação de Infância - APEI).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherAssociação Portuguesa de Professores de Inglês
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016


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