Released this week, the fifth edition of EPI is based on a survey of 910,000 adults. This year seven new countries were added to the index, bringing the total surveyed up to 70.
Sweden tops the table with a score of 70.94, while Libya ranks lowest with 37.86 points.
“There is a tremendous amount of focus from governments on English training”
The gap in the index between the country with the highest and the lowest proficiency has also widened, with a 33.08 point difference.
The report states that worldwide English proficiency is becoming less tied with the UK or the US and is also less associated with the elite classes.
“Instead, English is becoming a basic skill for the entire global workforce,” it says.
The case is most obvious in Latin America where all countries, with the exception of Colombia, have shown an increase in score, and for the first time, only three countries are ranked in the lowest proficiency category – Colombia, Venezuela and El Salvador.
Argentina ranks the highest in this region at number 15, with a score of 60.26 – an increase of 1.24 from last year.
Minh Tran, the report’s co-author, attributed the rise in English proficiency in Latin America to government initiatives to raise the standard of English in the region.
“There are just so many national initiatives all focused on how to improve their workforce English so that they can improve their economic competitiveness,” he told The PIE News.
Europe claims all spots in the ‘very high proficiency’ category
Panama saw the biggest rise of all countries in the index, increasing by 5.07 points.
Improving English proficiency is a key focus for Panama’s President, Juan Carlos Varela, in developing the country’s economy, noted Tran.
Last year the president launched the Panama Bilingual Program with the aim of creating 25,000 bilingual teachers and 260,000 bilingual students over the next four years.
Meanwhile, Europe once again claims all spots in the ‘very high proficiency’ category, with Sweden taking the number one position from Denmark, with an increase from 67.80 last year to 70.94 this year.
The index attributes the region’s high proficiency to public policy, stating that the EU “explicitly promotes ‘plurilingualism and intercultural education’ in all member countries”.
In the highest performing European countries, the index also found that men are equal to, or more proficient than woman, contrary to the global trend of women being more proficient in English.
Tran said that the reduction in the gender gap often correlates with the quality of the education systems and focus on equality in the country.
“The Nordic countries care a tremendous amount and put a lot of thought and investment into equity so we see the results here.”
“What we cannot forget is that compared to a decade ago, China’s English proficiency level has improved significantly”
In Asia, Singapore is the most proficient country, ranked at number 12 with a score of 61.08.
Meanwhile, China has seen a big drop in places this year, falling from 37 to 47. However, despite this, the actual decrease in points was less than one (0.74).
Tran said that while China’s score has decreased rather insignificantly, what is significant is that other countries are making more progress than China.
“What we cannot forget is that compared to a decade ago, China’s English proficiency level has improved significantly, we’ve just seen a slowdown in that progress over the past year,” he added.
Notably, three of the seven new countries added to the index (Lithuania, Luxembourg and Pakistan) entered with a score higher than China’s.
Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Oman and Yemen make up the remaining four new additions to the index, all ranking “very low”.