Describing Language
Proficiency: PISA-reading
literacy, EQF-key
competences, and the CEFR
Waldemar Martyniuk
Language Policy Division
Council of Europe
Strasbourg, France
Analysed documents
• Council of Europe, 2001: Common
European Framework of Reference for
Languages: Learning, teaching,
• OECD, 2003: The PISA 2003
Assessment Framework
• Commission of the European
Communities, 2005: Towards a
European Qualifications Framework for
Lifelong Learning, SEC(2005) 957
Analysed elements
• Function
• Aims
• Approach / parameters / categories of
description / descriptors
• Levels
• European language neutral framework of
reference for development and assessment of
proficiency in FL by adult learners
• Providing common meta-language and
common reference points for plurilingual
education (FL)
• Action-oriented approach; Descriptive Scheme
for language use: competences, activities and
strategies, tasks and purposes, domains, text
types, themes, situations (contexts of use),
conditions and constraints
• 6 (9) Common Reference Levels: global scale,
self-assessment scale, 54 scales of illustrative
descriptors (qualitative and quantitative cando statements)
• International assessment framework for
testing mathematical, scientific and reading
literacy of young adults at the age of 15
• Monitoring outcomes of educational systems;
providing basis for collaboration on policy;
providing input for standard-setting and
evaluation; supporting shift in policy focus
from educational inputs to learning outcomes
• Dimensions of reading literacy: processes,
content (knowledge and understanding),
context of application
• 5 levels, 5 subscales, one combined scale;
task descriptions (similar to can-do
PISA – assessing literacy
• Human capital (OECD definition): „the
knowledge, skills, competences and other
attributes embodied in individuals that are
relevant to personal, social and economic
• Aim of PISA: „to measure how well young
adults, at the age of 15 and therefore
approaching the end of compulsory schooling,
are prepared to meet the challenges of
today’s knowledge societies”
• Literacy: mastery of processes, understanding
of concepts, ability to function in various
situations (contexts)
• Reading literacy: „the capacity to understand,
use and reflect on written texts, in order to
achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s own
knowledge and potential, and to participate in
PISA – Reading literacy
• Processes (aspects):
Forming a broad understanding
Retrieving information
Developing an interpretation
Reflecting on content of text
Reflecting on form of text
• Content (knowledge and understanding):
– Continuous texts (narrative, expository, descriptive,
argumentative/persuasive, injunctive/instructive
– Non-continuous texts (charts, graphs, diagrams,
maps, forms, advertisements)
• Context of application (situations) = CEFR
PISA – Reading literacy: levels
• Mean score: 500 points (2/3 of candidates in
PISA 2000 scored 400-600)
• 5 levels:
335 – 407 points
408 – 480
481 – 552
553 – 625
over 625
• Level Descriptors, e. g.: „Make a simple
connection between information in the text
and common, everyday knowledge” (Level 1,
Sub-scale: Reflecting and evaluating)
• Composite item map, e. g.: „Identify the
implied starting date of a graph” (retrieving
information, non-continuous text, score 540)
• European meta-framework of reference for
qualifications as outcomes of lifelong learning
• Enabling qualifications to be related to each
other; facilitating transfer and recognition;
increasing transparency and supporting
mutual trust; quality assurance
• Learning outcomes: knowledge, skills, wider
competences – personal and professional
(autonomy and responsibility, learning
competences, communication and social
competences); key competences integrated
• 8 levels, 3 scales
• Common reference points (levels and scales)
• Tools and instruments:
– Integrated European credit transfer and
accumulation system for lifelong learning;
– Europass scheme:
Language Passport
Certificate Supplement
Diploma Supplement
Europass Mobility
– Database on learning opportunities (Ploteus portal)
• Set of common principles and procedures
(addressing quality assurance, validation of
formal and informal learning, guidance and
counselling, and promotion of key
EQF-levels and scales
• 8 levels:
– 1-2: compulsory education
– 3: upper secondary or adult education
– 4: end of upper secondary / post- compulsory
education; „gateway to HE”
– 5: completion of post-secondary; „short cycle”
within the first cycle of HE
– 6: HE, first cycle
– 7: HE, second cycle
– 8: HE, third cycle
• 3 scales:
– reference levels (ability descriptors)
– supporting information (educational context)
– indicators of level of qualification (recognition)
EQF – Key Competences
• A framework of reference for competences to
be acquired at the end of compulsory
schooling but also learned, updated and
maintained throughout life – integrated in the
EQA at Level 2
• Supporting national policies – part of EU
Lisbon strategy „Education and Training 2010”
• 8 key competences: Communication in
mother tongue, Communication in a FL,
Mathematical literacy (incl. science and
technology), ICT-skills, Learning to learn,
Interpersonal and civic competence,
Enterpreneurship, Cultural awareness
• Descriptors: knowledge, skills, attitudes
EQF – Key Competences –
Communication in MT
• Definition: „ability to express and interprete thoughts,
feelings and facts in both oral and written form in the
full range of societal contexts, work, home and leisure”
• Knowledge: vocabulary, functional grammar and style,
types of literary and non-literary texts, paralinguistic
features, types of verbal interaction, functions of
language, features of and styles and registers in
spoken and written language, awareness of variability
in language and communication over time
• Skills: communicating, reading, writing, searching for
and processing information, using aids, formulating
• Attitudes: positive attitude to the MT, open mind ready
to engage in constructive and critical dialogue, strive
for aesthetic quality, love of literature, intercultural
communication, confidence when speaking in public
EQF – Key Competences –
Communication in FL
• Definition: „as in MT – in languages other than the MT
and the language(s) of instruction at school, according
to one’s wants and needs; essential elements of
communicative competence (reference to CEFR-levels)
• Knowledge: vocabulary, functional grammar, intonation
and pronunciation, types of literary and non-literary
texts, paralinguistic features, types of verbal
interaction, functions of language, features of and
styles and registers in spoken and written language,
awareness of societal conventions and cultural aspects
and variability of language in different geographical,
social and communication environments
• Skills: listening, speaking, interacting, reading, writing,
using aids, autonomous learning
• Attitudes: sensitivity to cultural differences and
resistance to stereotyping, interest in and curiosity
about languages, intercultural communication
• CEFR, EQF: descriptive European metaframeworks
• PISA: international assessment framework
• Competence based: focus on learning
outcomes (ability based on knowledge)
• Common target group: young adults (end of
compulsory education)
• Some differences in the use of terminology
(competence, domain, situation, content,
context, purpose)
• Overarching framework structure:
Descriptive scheme
Reference levels and scales
Tools and instruments
Guidelines and procedures
Assessment scheme (with background surveys)
• Need for closer cooperation on
European and international level
• Issues for discussion:
– To what extent is competence based
approach suitable for LE?
– Which elements of the overarching
framework structure might be developed
for LE?
– What other elements might be needed?
– How to relate a LE framework to the
existing frameworks?