For the seventh year in a row, Education First (EF), has released their annual report on English proficiency. EF, an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange, states in their introduction to the rankings, “In 2017, English is as essential to international communication as it has ever been.
It is the language of science, business, and diplomacy. The global adoption of English is not a testament to the cultural supremacy of any one country, but rather a rejection of the need for a shared language in our deeply interconnected world.”
This year's index ranks 80 countries and territories based on test data from more than one million adults who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET) in 2016. According to the EF report, their key findings were:
- Fewer Countries Showed Significant Improvement in English Proficiency
- The report saw only a slight improvement in scores.
- Only Panama, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Thailand showed significant gains.
- Europeans Have the Best English
- Europe’s average score is only slightly higher than that of Asia.
- Eight of the top ten highest scores are from Europe.
- Adults in Latin America are Catching Up to Adults in Asia
- The average English proficiency score in Latin America is just now two points behind Asia.
- Countries in Latin America have the narrowest proficiency score of any region, which means that the highest and lowest proficiency countries in Latin America are not very far apart. Only ten points separates Latin America’s highest proficiency country from El Salvador, the lowest.
- In Asia, on the other hand, the gap between the highest and lowest countries is nearly 30 points—the widest in the world.
- Africa’s English Proficiency Remains Difficult to Gauge
- Based on the data available, English proficiency in Africa is slightly below the global average. However, this estimate only includes test takes from nine countries. Because of this, EF doesn’t have a clear picture of English proficiency on the continent.
- The Middle East has the Lowest English Proficiency
- Especially in conflict zones, education remains a problem.
- Women Speak English Better Than Men
- Worldwide, EF found that women’s English proficiency is higher than men’s. In Latin America and the Middle East, men are on par with women.
- Younger People Have Better English Than Older People
- The generation proficiency gap is widest in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, where average proficiency scores for recent high school graduates are nearly 20 points higher than those of adults over 40.
- English Correlates with Key Economic and Social Indicators
- Countries with higher levels of English proficiency tended to have more service exports, better Internet access, and more investment in research and development than countries with lower English proficiency.
The top 10 Highest Proficiency Countries
- South Africa
The Lowest Proficiency Countries
- Saudi Arabia