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English proficiency of Vietnamese hits five-year low: EF report

Wednesday, November 06, 2019, 14:05 GMT+7
English proficiency of Vietnamese hits five-year low: EF report
A foreign teacher shows a student a picture during an English lesson at an elementary school in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Nhu Hung / Tuoi Tre

Vietnamese people's proficiency in using English has fallen for the third year in a row to reach the lowest point since 2015, according to the 2019 English Proficiency Index compiled by the global education firm Education First (EF).

Vietnamese’ English skills improved from “very low” to “low” between 2011 and 2014, before maintaining a “moderate” proficiency level between 2015 and 2018, according to the annual EF report.

This year’s report, EF’s biggest league table to date, showed Vietnam drastically dropping to 52nd place out of 100 countries and regions with a score of 51.57, which is considered “low” proficiency.

The annual index places the countries and territories surveyed into five proficiency bands, from “very high” to “very low," indicating the level of the average person.

A “low” proficiency band indicates the ability to “navigate an English-speaking country as a tourist, engage in small talk with colleagues, and understand simple emails from colleagues,” the report explains.

In 2018, Vietnam ranked 41st out of 88 countries and regions studied in the same report with a score of 53.12, while in 2017 it ranked 34th out of 80 countries and regions with a score of 53.43.

In Asia, Vietnam had the tenth highest score in the 2019 EF report, ranking behind Singapore (5th), the Philippines (20th), Malaysia (26th), Hong Kong (33rd), India (34th), South Korea (37th), Taiwan (38th), China (40th), and Macau (41st).

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all recorded a downward trend in their scores, while Cambodia and Myanmar saw improvement.

Wealthy Northern European countries including the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark came in the top four.

The 2019 EF English Proficiency Index is based on test data from more than 2,300,000 test takers around the world who took the EF Standard English Test or one of the firm’s English placement tests in 2018.

The tests included the IELTS, TOEFL, and TOEIC, as well as Cambridge Exams such as the KET, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE, and others.

According to EF, the results tell nothing about the other macro-skills and are biased toward respondents interested in English study and younger adults, who constituted the test-taking population.

The group surveyed was not necessarily a fair representation of the overall population, the firm admits.

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