Vietnam's English proficiency drops in 2019 ranking

By Phan Nghia   November 6, 2019 | 09:31 pm PT
Vietnam's English proficiency drops in 2019 ranking
People in HCMC learn English with a foreign teacher (C) at a park, December 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
English proficiency in Vietnam has dropped to 'low' with a score of 51.57 on the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI).

With a drop of 1.55 in the EPI score, this is the first time Vietnam has been listed in the low-proficiency category since 2015, down from "moderate" in succeeding years.

From 41st out of 88 nations in 2018, Vietnam has dropped to 52nd among 100 nations. Despite the increased number of surveyed nations, a large number of new nations have lower scores and this hasn't affected Vietnam's standing, suggesting that the nation has some difficulties in keeping up with the worldwide increase in English proficiency, the report says.

In Asia, Vietnam is ranked 10th out of 25 countries and territories, a slight drop from 7th out of 21 in 2018. The three nations with the highest scores in Asia, Singapore (66.82 - very high proficiency), the Philippines and Malaysia (60.14 and 58.55 - high proficiency) have not changed positions. In the region, only Taiwan witnesses a significant improvement, its score increasing by 2.30 points.

Within Vietnam, the two largest cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City rank the highest with scores of 53.68 and 53.07, respectively. The north-central coastal region and the Mekong River Delta have the lowest scores at 47.13 and 47.73.

In general, English proficiency is improving worldwide. The most proficient nations in the world are European: the Netherlands (70.27), Sweden (68.74) and Norway (67.93). In Asia, the proficiency level declined slightly, with over half of the Asian nations witnessing a drop.

Founded in 1965, EF Education First is an international education company combining language training with cultural activities to create an immersive environment for global learners. In 2019, with 612 offices and schools in 114 nations, EF received the test data of 2.3 million adults and compiled the ninth EF EPI report.

More than 33,000 Vietnamese took the test this year, nearly twice the number last year.

The report shows a strong correlation with the worldwide TOEFL iBT 2017 scores and IELTS Academic Test 2017 scores, the two most common English evaluation tests in the world.

In Vietnam, English is a compulsory subject from 3rd grade onwards. Students in public schools are mostly taught using the traditional methods of grammar exercises and vocabulary cramming.

In the national high school graduation exam in 2019, the average English score was 4.36/10, with almost 70 percent of students posting below-average scores. The highest scores belonged to urban areas like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, Ba Ria – Vung Tau, while the lowest scores were recorded in rural, mountainous areas.

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