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Spanish-speaking universities organise around… Spanish

On 2 June 2010, at the 2nd Meeting of Universia Rectors in Guadalajara, Mexico, over 100 universities from the Spanish-speaking world signed on to a framework agreement for SICELE—the International Certification System for Spanish as a Foreign Language (known in Spanish as Sistema Internacional de Certificación del Español como Lengua Extranjera). In general terms, the SICELE agreement seeks to raise the profile of Spanish as a world language and encourage more people to study Spanish. More specifically, it aims to formalize ongoing efforts to ensure quality through common standards for the evaluation of Spanish language instruction and student proficiency. More universal recognition of Spanish-language qualifications obtained through SICELE-member organisations is another stated outcome of the agreement.

The SICELE initiative has been spearheaded largely by the Instituto Cervantes of Spain over the last five years. Meetings in Salamanca, Spain (2005) and Medellín, Colombia (2007) provided opportunities for various universities, public institutions and educational authorities across the Spanish-speaking world to contribute to the discussion and development of a common set of goals. This work eventually led to the signing of the SICELE constitution in 2007, formally creating a network of institutions committed to the project of promoting the Spanish language and its effective instruction. The newly signed agreement now aspires to move SICELE to the next level, giving the network a foundation on which to build real operational capacity to achieve its objectives.

It is unclear what the longer-term the impact might be (if any) on quality standards for Spanish language instruction and student outcomes in non-signatory institutions, or if the SICELE movement might eventually have an influence on approaches to Spanish language instruction in non-Spanish speaking countries. Still, the move to consolidate and strengthen approaches to Spanish language instruction in higher education is notable in an era of widespread recognition that the English language holds a privileged position in international academic and scientific circles.


Insitituto Cervantes