By | 13th February, 2021

A global survey of over two million adults reveals worldwide trends in English proficiency

EF Education First released today the 2020 edition of its EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), analyzing data from 2.2 million non-native English speakers in 100 countries and regions. This year, the Netherlands remains in the first position while Denmark and Finland tie for second.

“While 2020 has been a challenging year, the circumstances have also highlighted the importance of clear communication and cooperation across borders. English as a global lingua franca continues to bring people together, and the EF EPI contains valuable insights for policymakers to evaluate and strengthen their organizations’ and governments’ language learning capability,”

said Dr. Christopher McCormick, EF Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EF SET has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments for large-scale testing.

Key findings of the EF EPI 2020 include:

  1. The network effect of English has never been stronger. The more people use English, the more useful it becomes for individuals, businesses, and countries to access resources and opportunities.
  2. Although Europe’s English proficiency is consistently strong, 27 out of 33 countries improved their proficiency since last year. Russia has improved and returned to the Moderate proficiency band, after briefly dropping to the Low proficiency band last year.
  3. Asia displays the largest gap between the highest and lowest scorers of any region. China continues to improve but India has dropped from Moderate to Low proficiency.
  4. Latin America’s upward trend continues despite Mexico’s significant decline.
  5. Africa’s overall average has improved significantly, but the gap between high and low proficiency countries remains wide. Most countries on the continent still do not supply enough test data to be included in the index.
  6. People aged 26 to 30 have the highest English proficiency worldwide, but adults over 40 scores better than 18-20-year-olds, underlining the role of universities and workplaces in developing English skills.
  7. Government, education, and healthcare sectors scored at the bottom of the industry ranking. Competition in the private sector is driving companies to select for English proficiency and invest in developing English skills more aggressively, leaving the public sector underskilled by comparison.
  8. For the first time, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Rwanda have sufficient data to be included in the index.

The scoring scale of the EF EPI has moved to 800 points this year to eliminate confusion with the previous scale which resembled a percentile. Alongside the new scale, a clarification of the conversion of EF EPI scores to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is included in the report.

The EF EPI report is available for download at ef.com/epi

About EF Education First

EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, academic, cultural exchange, and educational travel programs. Founded in 1965, EF’s mission is “opening the world through education.” EF is the Official Language Training Partner for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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