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Why the level of English in your country is so important

Why

English skills matter because they give people access to a wider range of information, a more diverse, international network, and more job opportunities than ever before. They also matter at the national level because they can tell us a lot about a country’s level of innovation, competitiveness, and future prospects.

In EF Education First’s 2021 English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), we compiled test data from 2 million adults and used this data to rank nations according to their English skills.

The following are key findings from this year’s report:

  • English proficiency has continued to improve around the world, albeit slowly. 16 countries moved up a proficiency band while only one dropped down.
  • Levels in Europe continue to be the highest in the world and have improved significantly in the last decade.
  • In Asia, levels in Central Asia and East Asia improved (despite declining in Japan) while the ASEAN region saw declines in population-weighted averages.
  • Levels in Latin America continued their steady rise, despite Mexico continuing its decade-long decline. Noteworthy is also the lack of progress in women’s English levels in the region.
  • Levels in Africa continue to vary significantly although several North African countries saw notable gains, particularly Algeria.
  • Levels in the Middle East improved slightly, although adults under 25 have not improved at all and women continue to lag behind men.

This year’s results also cemented some enlightening correlations between levels of English and greater connectivity, higher levels of innovation and technological adoption, and even openness and social and political fairness.

On an individual level, the following findings also stood out:

  • Adults aged over 30 improved their English levels the fastest and since 2015 have improved three times as much as those aged between 21-25.
  • Men have caught up to women in terms of average English levels, improving their score from the previous year once again.
  • Differences in English skills between managers and lower-ranking staff have evened out, but differences depending on job function (maintenance vs. marketing, for example) still persist.
  • English proficiency levels are higher in big cities compared to rural areas, reflecting, in part, the draw of higher-paying jobs in urban centers.

Although the findings of the EF EPI do not tell the whole story, they do tell an important one: high English proficiency levels are part and parcel of a future that is prosperous, connected, and healthy.

They also underscore the critical importance of skills that make individuals, companies, and societies more internationally connected and adaptable in the face of ever-accelerating technological change.

As the 2021 EF EPI report points out:

“Languages connect people. They are the way we share ideas, preserve knowledge, and create culture. And languages with many speakers have an inherent magnetism: learning them opens doors. English has the potential to be a powerful driver of diversity and inclusion over the coming decade if only everyone gets an equal shot at learning it.”

For full national rankings and analysis of the relationship between your country’s English skills and its economy, level of innovation, and connectivity, go to www.ef.com/epi.

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