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Regions in Asia with the highest and lowest English proficiency: 2023 Index

Regions in Asia with the highest and lowest English proficiency: 2023 Index

Globally, Singapore ranked second, putting it in first place across Asia.

It is widely acknowledged that learning any additional language offers a multitude of benefits. Yet, within the modern world, English holds a distinctive position; not because of the language itself but because so many people speak it. As explained by EF Education First, the larger the English-speaking population, the more useful speaking English becomes.

Particularly, the value of a shared language is most perceptible in the workplace, where English opens up opportunities for individuals and boosts both diversity and efficiency for organisations.

Against this background, EF has gathered data on English proficiency, publishing its annual English Proficiency Indexinvestigating how and where English proficiency is developing around the world. To create the 2023 edition of the index, EF analysed the results of 2.2mn adults who took the EF SET English tests in 2022, with a particular emphasis on proficiency trends around the world since the publication of the first EF EPI in 2011.

Of the 2.2mn test-takers, the demographic can be broken down into the following:

  • 55% female, 45% male
  • There was a median age of 26 years old, and 99% of test-takers were aged 18-60
  • Spread across 113 countries and regions

 With this, the top 10 regions in Asia that ranked the highest in terms of English proficiency were:

Ranking in AsiaRegion  Global rankingScore
 1 Singapore 2 631
 2 Philippines 20 578
 3 Malaysia 25 568
 4 Hong Kong 29 558
 5 South Korea 49 525
 6 Nepal 57 507
 7 Vietnam 58 505
 8 Bangladesh 60 504
 9 India 60 504
 10 Pakistan 64 497

 Globally, the top 10 regions were as follows:

Global rankingRegion Score
 1 Netherlands 647
 2 Singapore 631
 3 Austria 616
 4 Denmark 615
 5 Norway 614
 6 Sweden 609
 7 Belgium 608
 8 Portugal  607
 9 South Africa 605
 10 Germany 604

As the index points out, differences in levels of English proficiency between industries are most likely a direct consequence of hiring practices and varying levels of investment in English training programmes. Its persistence in the private sector is "somewhat surprising given the level of international integration and competition in all industries". 

Further, simple measures of wealth and trade possibly correlate consistently with English proficiency, However, the study acknowledges that those relationships are not as strong as the ones with more complex indicators of economic balance, productivity, and potential.

"In this way English is like other skills in a modern workforce: English alone doesn't raise wages or increase trade, but more efficient workforces tend to speak better English."

View the full Index here for a look at countries and regions which ranked 'moderate', 'low' and 'very low'.

Lead image / English Proficiency Index 

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