Share EF EPI

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

From the executive to the entrepreneur, the programmer to the public servant, nearly every professional gains access to a wealth of resources and opportunities by mastering English. In a world where integration is the norm, English has become the medium of cross-cultural communication for a growing number of people in an increasingly diverse set of situations. No skill since literacy has held such potential to increase the efficiency and earning power of so many. The impact of English on the global economy is undeniable.

Over the past decade, EF Education First (EF) has tested the English skills of millions of adults around the world. Each year, EF publishes the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), a worldwide benchmark for measuring and tracking adult English proficiency over time. The EF EPI adds to ongoing discussions about the strategic importance of English in the world today.

This sixth edition of the EF EPI ranks 72 countries and territories based on test data from more than 950,000 adults who took our online English tests in 2015. The first section of the report looks at the relationship between English and a range of economic and social indicators, including earning power, innovation, and connectivity. The second section examines the position of English in four different regions of the world – Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – and discusses the challenges and opportunities that countries in these regions experience as they strive to develop English-speaking workforces. Highlights of this year's findings include:

  • English is a key component of economic competitiveness at both the individual and national levels. Higher English proficiency correlates with higher incomes, better quality of life, more dynamic business environments, greater connectivity, and more innovation.
  • The range of English proficiency is broader than we have ever found. Both Asia and Europe have at least one country in each of the five proficiency bands.
  • English proficiency in Europe remains the strongest in the world by a wide margin, with Northern European countries occupying the top five positions in this year’s index.
  • For the first time ever, an Asian country, Singapore, is in the highest proficiency band. Malaysia and the Philippines are also in the top 15 countries worldwide.
  • Though the decline is slight, Latin America is the only region with an average proficiency level that has dropped in the past year.
  • Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are uniformly in the lowest proficiency bands, and in most MENA countries, English proficiency is not improving.
  • Women speak English better than men in almost all countries and age groups. This finding has been consistent across all editions of the EF EPI.
  • Young adults aged 18-25 have the strongest English proficiency worldwide, although some countries have markedly different national trends.

CONCLUSIONS

English skills are a basic requirement in today’s global economy. Mastery of a language is difficult and expensive, but parents and professionals understand the value of investing in English training, and companies and governments recognize the link between workforce English and longterm competitiveness in the 21st century.

In this sixth edition of the EF EPI, we have reviewed the challenges countries face in providing quality English education to large populations of students, and the diverse approaches and strategies they employ. We discussed the role English plays in driving innovation, and the opportunities that exist for leveraging technology for more efficient and personalized learning.

Our research leads us to identify the following best practices in effective English education:

  • Consider English within the framework of broader reforms. In countries with low educational attainment and high inequality, giving all students access to at least a decade of quality public education, including instruction in English, inevitably leads to better English proficiency among adults.
  • Cultivate a culture of multilingualism. The more families, schools, and governments do to foster the expectation that everyone will speak more than one language, the more children will expect it of themselves. This culture of multilingualism is difficult to define but easy to recognize. Visitors notice it immediately in Scandinavia and other high proficiency places.
  • Focus on practical communication skills from day one. The ultimate objective of language education is the ability to communicate with others in the language. Therefore, effective English instruction prioritizes communication over grammatical correctness or the reproduction of native-speaker accents. Many adults, having studied in more traditional settings that emphasized grammar over fluency, need extra practice with listening and speaking.
  • Develop effective English assessments. Different situations, needs, and learner objectives require different evaluations. It is particularly important to reform high-stakes exams because of the way they influence pedagogy across the board. Making high-quality standardized tests free and accessible to adult learners is in line with other open-access trends in continuing education.
  • Invest in teacher training. If well-designed and executed, training programs for aspiring teachers and professional development for established teachers are smart investments. More skilled teachers can impact several generations of students.
  • Support workplace and private sector training for adults. In many cases, adult learners have frequent opportunities to interact with native English speakers at work, strong motivation to improve, and money to invest in upgrading their skill set. Adult English training must be included in broader discussions about English education.
  • Leverage technology and online learning tools. For adult English learners, alternative classroom formats are especially beneficial. MOOCs, video call tutoring, and online conversation classes all offer working adults more flexible learning opportunities. Self-study apps and other mobile products also allow anyone to learn basic grammar, vocabulary, and listening on the go.

    It takes a great deal of effort and investment to steer a country or company towards a future with an English-speaking workforce. We hope that by sharing our data and analyses of adult English proficiency trends, we have contributed to global discussions about English language education.

More EF EPI Reports

EF EPI-s

EF English Proficiency Index for Schools

The EF English Proficiency Index for Schools (EF EPI-s) is a study of the acquisition of English skills by secondary and tertiary students.

NEW EF EPI-c 2016 REPORT

EF EPI-c

EF English Proficiency Index for Companies

The EF English Proficiency Index for Companies (EF EPI-c) is an evaluation of global workforce English skills.

Participate in the EF EPI

EF Standard English Test

Participate in the next EF EPI report by taking the EF SET – the world's first free standardized English test.