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November 12, 2013

Turkey most improved in 3rd EF English Proficiency Index

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In the largest global ranking of countries by their English skills, EF have published their latest English Proficiency Index (EF EPI). The index benchmarks English proficiency across 60 countries using test data from almost 5 million adults. Unsurprisingly the rankings are dominated by European countries, and in particular Scandinavia. In spite of declines in Japan and South Korea, Asia has overtaken Latin America and the Middle East. The greatest gains in proficiency over the previous index were seen in Turkey and Kazakhstan.

EF Education First, the global leader in international education, recently published the results of this year’s EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) – the world’s most comprehensive ranking of English ability. In addition to ranking 60 countries and territories by their English skills, the EF EPI for the first time includes an analysis of English proficiency trends over a six-year period that has seen intense investment in English language learning. The EF EPI also finds correlations between the English skills of a nation’s workforce and the country’s economic outlook.

“Comparison of countries with their neighbours, trading partners, and rivals provides a fascinating study in divergent national priorities and educational policies worldwide,” said Dr. Christopher McCormick, Head of EF’s Academic Affairs and Research Network. “We found that by engaging in a national dialogue about English, stakeholders can help align goals, improve incentives, and focus on teaching English for communication. The economic impact of such a coordinated program is clear.”

This year’s country rankings are based on tests taken by 750,000 adults from 60 countries in 2012. The analysis of evolving English proficiency over a six-year period (2007 to 2012 inclusive) uses test data from nearly five million adults.

Key findings include:

  • Some Asian countries, in particular Indonesia and Vietnam, have transformed their English proficiency over the six-year period. China has also improved, although less dramatically. Japan and South Korea, despite enormous private investments, have declined slightly.
  • Across the board, English language skills are improving in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). This year, India and Russia have moved ahead of China, and Brazil is closing in fast.
  • While the rest of Europe is already proficient in English or steadily working towards that goal, France is on an entirely different trajectory. The seven countries with the strongest English are all small European nations, whose size compels them to adopt an international outlook.
  • The Middle East and North Africa are the weakest regions in English. These oil-rich nations have staked their futures on developing knowledge economies before their oil production peaks. An exception to the region’s lackluster performance is the United Arab Emirates, which has improved significantly.
  • Turkey has improved the most of any nation over the six-year period. This is a positive trend, coming as the country continues to develop according to a number of economic factors.
  • Poland and Hungary have made tremendous progress in learning English. These new English skills are an important step towards building the knowledge economies they aspire to have.
  • Poor English remains one of the key competitive weaknesses of Latin America. Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Chile have improved, but they still lack the large base of competent English speakers necessary for a globalized workforce. Some countries in the region, including Mexico and Guatemala, have declining English proficiency.

The full index and additional analysis and graphs are available on the EF website.

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