This glossary is a collection of terms and their operational definitions as they were used in a variety of Agency activities. You can use the filter to search and select the terms you want to see based on their place in the alphabet or the activities that they are related to.




When a learner does not attend school or class. While absenteeism refers to absences from school ‘for any reason’, truancy refers to unexcused or unjustified absenteeism (UNICEF and UIS, 2016, p. 23) and includes involuntary and voluntary absences. Involuntary absences consider the context of learners’ lives and may be a product of social context. Voluntary absences may be associated with motivational or other factors, such as employment, which can gradually draw a learner out of school. In either case, the learner is deciding not to be in school (European Agency, 2019a).


‘The opportunity or right to use something or to see somebody/something’; ‘Entering or reaching a place’ (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries).

Within an educational context, the right to enter educational settings (schools and classes) is important, as well as the ability to use financial, human and technical resources.


Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines ‘accessibility’ as follows:

To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas (United Nations, 2006, p. 9).

Accessibility is a right to be ensured in all areas. These include education and the right to appropriate education and active citizenship through access to a flexible curriculum through personalised learning approaches.

Accessible information

Within the i-access project, ‘accessible information’ is understood as information provided in formats which allow every learner to access its content ‘on an equal basis with others’ (United Nations, 2006, p. 9). 


‘Being responsible for your decisions or actions and expected to explain them when you are asked’ (Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries).

Accountability may be vertical (top down) or horizontal (e.g. school-to-school or peer-to-peer support systems). It may include compliance with regulations, adherence to professional norms and/or be driven by outcomes. The purpose of accountability is widely accepted as one of strengthening the education system (Brill, Grayson, Kuhn and O’Donnell, 2018).

Accountability starts with governments, as primary duty bearers of the right to education … Governments should therefore take steps towards developing credible and efficient regulations with associated sanctions for all education providers, public and private, that ensure non-discrimination and the quality of education … No approach to accountability will be successful without a strong enabling environment that provides actors with adequate resources, capacity and information to fulfil their responsibilities (SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, 2018, p. 2).


In addition to academic attainment and other wider learning (e.g. personal, social), achievement may be shown through increasing confidence, using a broader range of learning strategies, more active participation, increased social skills, wider competences, access to further study and employment.

According to the Agency’s Position on Inclusive Education Systems, ‘raised achievement for learners encompasses all forms of personal, social and academic attainments that will be relevant for the individual learner in the short term, while enhancing their life chances in the long term’ (European Agency, 2015a, p. 2).

(See also ‘Attainment’)

Action / practitioner research

Kemmis and McTaggart (1988, p. 5) provide the following definition of ‘action research’, which emphasises its participatory, collaborative and self-reflective nature and firmly locates it as a form of social action orientated towards improvement:

Action research is a form of collective self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own social or educational practices, as well as their understanding of these practices and the situations in which these practices are carried out.

The ‘action research’ model has been used for school improvement purposes. It is a form of professional self-study, where teachers intentionally consider their work to collect data, which they then use to make informed decisions about their practice and their learners’ learning (Campbell, 2013). 

One of the principal intentions of action/practitioner research is that teachers raise the quality of their practice by engaging in basic classroom or school-set research, addressing curriculum or other broadly pedagogical issues (Institute of Public Administration/European Commission Structural Reform Support Service, 2017).

Additional / second language learners

Learners, often from an immigrant background, who do not speak the national language and who need additional support to access the curriculum in school and develop resources to fully participate in the life of the local and wider community.

Agency / active agency

Having power to influence transformational change. In educational environments, learners and families have agency when they are able to initiate discussions, take action and share power, ensuring their voices are given weight in decision-making processes (European Agency, no date a).

Furthermore, ‘active agency’ is when learners or families are able to initiate discussions, take action and have shared power to influence decisions and bring about transformative change (European Agency, 2022a, p. 23).

Alternative / augmentative communication (ACC)

Alternative / augmentative communication (ACC) refers to extra ways of helping people who find it hard to communicate by speech or writing to communicate more easily. This can include signing and gesture (unaided systems) or books and special computers (aided systems) (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, cited by UNESCO IITE/European Agency, 2011, p. 101).

Alternative education

Alternative education refers to different recognised forms of educational provision that are arranged by education or other public or private authorities and/or services, for learners who do not attend mainstream and/or special schools/classes for different reasons (European Agency, 2021a, p. 10).


‘Process of defining, selecting, designing, collecting, analysing, interpreting and using information about a student’s achievement and development level in academic, behavioural or social areas’ (UNESCO, 2020a, p. 419).

Assessment adaptation / modification / accommodation

Assessment adaptation / modification / accommodation refers to an alteration in the way a general assessment is done or test is applied. Assessment accommodation allows learners with special educational needs to show what they know or what they can do by removing the barriers that may be intrinsic in the assessment itself (for example, providing written test questions orally to learners with visual impairments).

(See also ‘Reasonable adjustments’)

Assessment as learning

‘Assessment that actively involves learners and encourages them to think about the way they learn. It occurs when learners reflect on and regulate and monitor their learning progress. It comprises learner reflection and peer and self-assessment’ (UNESCO-IBE, Glossary of Curriculum Terminology).

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