English proficiency has dropped in Malaysia and Singapore in the past year, despite people having some of the best English skills in Asia.
A new index by EF Education First found English levels in both countries dropped marginally since last year, while Hong Kong’s English proficiency has been slipping “steadily” since 2007.
With a score of 59.73, Malaysia ranked 12th out of the 63 countries surveyed, one position lower than 2013.
Singapore fell to 13th place, securing a score of 59.58, while Hong Kong ranked 31st, calling into question the city’s reputation as an English-speaking hub for business.
Denmark led the list with a score of 69.30, followed by the Netherlands at 68.99, and Sweden at 67.80.
“Asian countries have a wide range of proficiency levels, from high to very low, with dramatic progress alongside persistent stagnation,” the report stated.
Interestingly, the study also found a gender gap when it came to English-proficiency levels, with women more likely to speak better English than men in nearly every country surveyed.
It highlighted the gender gap was significant enough to have an impact in the workplace, and stressed on the need for researchers to understand the causes behind men’s poorer English levels.
Managers were also found to be more proficient in the language than executives and other staff.
“It might appear natural that executives’ English proficiency would be higher than that of managers and staff, since executives are more likely to be operating in an international context,” the report stated. “Despite this, in almost half of the countries tested, English proficiency among executives was worse than among managers and staff.”
The report attributed the finding to the possibility of executives not learning English in schools, since their seniority dictated they were more likely to be educated at a time when English was not yet a required subject in a nation’s curricula.