Applying the CEF to Slovak university courses

Author: Dana Hanesová


The author starts her presentation with the historical background and current trends towards the application of the Common European Framework (CEF) in Slovak schools. Giving an example of an English course for Social Sciences, she then describes the specific phases of the application of the CEF.

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Table of contents

This paper was originally presented at the Navigating the new landscape for languages conference (, 30 June - 1 July 2004.

1. Historical background

The current favourable climate for foreign language teaching (FLT) at Slovak universities is the result of several important events and joint efforts of language teachers after 1990:

  • the establishment of the Slovak Association of Teachers;
  • the teacher training by the British Council which generously sponsored also this presentation;
  • the interest in the measurement and assessment;
  • obligatory secondary-school leaving exam in FL for everybody (B1 CEF or B2 CEF );
  • the CEF Glossary produced by Slovak authors;
  • the Slovak edition of the Eurolingua English material;
  • the European Language Portfolio for adolescents in Slovak;
  • the involvement in Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates, TNP2 and TNP3.

2. The current trends

In 2001 the Czech and Slovak Association of Language Centres in Higher Education (CASALC) was accepted as a member of CERCLES (the European Confederation of Language Centres in Higher Education). Its supreme goal is to support Languages for Specific Purposes (LSP) at universities under the EU strategic plan of Language Learning for European Citizenship . It started to be realised by the application of the ELP and the CEF.

In 2003 a Central European Institute for Accreditation of the United University Certification System, UNIcert ® LUCE, was established in Slovakia. It is focused on unification, needs analysis, benchmarking and networking of university language centres for non-philological students.

The CEF is being applied at Slovak University FL centres by FL curriculum designers and textbook writers; FL teachers and assessors who use the CEF objective criteria for the standardisation and mutual recognition of qualifications (Beresova 2001: 466).

3. Applying the CEF: an example of the Social Sciences

The English for Specific Purposes of Social Sciences (ESP-SS) has a much shorter history than ESP for other study fields. According to Hanesova's (2003: 157-185) research of FLT and likewise to a Czech research (Rychtarova 2003:13), these students are the most neglected ones.

The CEF could be applied in practically all of the following steps of the ESP-SS course design (Jordan 1997: 57) by responding to the challenges for the CEF users:

Needs analysis

  • The objective requirements of international and national educational policy documents: the teachers, psychologists, social workers and other graduates of Social Sciences need to become modern European professionals, able to communicate in FL. ESP-SS courses should equip them with FL proficiency in the educational and occupational domains.
  • Students' FL needs analysis (e.g. Ruskova & Caganova 1998:14): communicative competence level, preferred macro- and micro-skills, ways of improving, positive/negative factors in language learning, motivation, FL usage.
  • Mapping of the specific learning needs, styles and strategies (Homolova 2003: 7-39) so that the course could be learner-centred (Lojova 2003: 115-120).
  • The discrepancy between the demands and the insufficient university policy.

Decision about the curriculum

Following the needs analysis, our Social Sciences students are offered the following courses:

  • English for General Purposes (A1 CEF B1 CEF );
  • Content and Language Integrated Learning (B2 CEF C1 CEF)
  • and three types of ESP-SS (B2 CEF C1 CEF ): for academic needs of the students, for professional needs of the graduates and preparing students for foreign placements

Two parallel educational goals

  • the development of communicative competence and performance in the FL;
  • the development of the students into reflective and creative professionals who are aware of the European dimension of their future profession.

Type of ESP-SS syllabus

It should be content-based, holistic, consisting of the following components:

  • the professional knowledge content;
  • the educational and real-world tasks giving training in sociolinguistic and pragmatic competencies relevant to the educational and professional domains;
  • heuristic and study skills;
  • other components, tailor-made to the individual deficiencies (macro-skills, grammar, lexis).


It includes the decisions (CEF 2001:143) about:

  • the organisation of learning;
  • the combination of teaching methods and learning strategies chosen according to the needs of individual learners/groups (e. g. direct exposure to the authentic listening to recordings, radio; watching video and TV; reading authentic written texts, using computer programs; direct participation in specially devised tasks; self-study);
  • group and individual planning;
  • ways of implementation and evaluation by the teacher;
  • negotiating interaction to satisfy individual learners etc.

Study materials

As there is still a lack of any study material for this kind of ESP, the teachers can:

  • choose a few materials, specially composed for use in FLL as the basic resources of the courses;
  • build their database of authentic texts and tasks.

Decisions about the assessment

The assessment of the ESP-SS course should be balanced between achievement and proficiency; testing performance; objective; both formative and summative; both direct and indirect.

4. Conclusion

The efforts of Slovak universities to apply the CEF to their FL course design seems to be in line with the predominant current tendency. We suggest that FL teachers need a lot of support because the process of applying the CEF to their work would require a lot of extra time and effort.


Beresova, J. (2001) The School-Leaving Examination in English Compatible with European Standards. In CO-MAT-TECH 2001 , 465-468. Trnava: MTF STU.

Hanesova, D. (2003) ESP at the Faculty of Education (Slovak) . Banska Bystrica: PFUMB.

Homolova, E. (2003) Individualization of Teaching EFL Via Learning Styles and Strategies (Slovak). In Teoria a prax pripravy ucitelov anglictiny, 7-29. Banska Bystrica: FHV UMB.

Jordan, R. R. (1997) English for Academic Purposes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lojova, G. (2003) The Learner-Centred Approach in FLTT (Slovak). In Teaching Foreign Languages at Primary Schools, 115-120. Trnava: PF TU.

Ruskova, D., Caganova, D. (1998) Needs Analysis. ESP Spectrum , 2:14-19.

Rychtarova, K. (2003) Foreign Language for Professional Needs of Teachers. Usti nad Labem: PF UJEP.