Vietnam slips in English proficiency rankings

By Nguyen Quy   November 17, 2020 | 09:13 pm PT
Vietnam slips in English proficiency rankings
A foreigner teaches English to Vietnamese students of an English center at a park in HCMC, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
An international language training company says Vietnam has fallen 13 places over a year in the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI).

Vietnam’s EPI average score was 473 out of 800 in the marking for 2020, making it the second year in a row Vietnam has been listed in the low-proficiency category, according to "the world's largest ranking of countries and regions by English skills" released by Swiss Education First (EF), a global language training company.

The ranking was based on surveys conducted in the form of an online quiz with the participation of nearly 2.2 million adults from 100 non-native English speaking countries and territories.

For the first time, the points scale has been moved to 800 this year, equivalent to English level C2, the sixth and final level in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

A report on the ranking explained a low proficiency level as an individual only being able to "navigate an English-speaking country as a tourist, engage in small talk with colleagues, and understand simple emails from colleagues."

In Asia, Vietnam was ranked 13th among 24 economies, down from 10th last year, and 65th globally. The three nations with the highest ranks in Asia, Singapore (10th), the Philippines (27th) and Malaysia (30th) were listed in the "very high proficiency," "high proficiency" and "moderate proficiency" categories.

In Southeast Asia, Vietnam's English skills were higher than Indonesia (74th), Cambodia (84th), Thailand (89th), and Myanmar (93rd).

The report noted that English proficiency in Asia declined slightly compared to last year, with almost half the countries surveyed registering a drop in scores. It also said that despite major investments in English education in both the private and public sectors, the average proficiency score in Asia has remained stagnant for the past five years.

Vietnam’s two major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, were also listed in the "low proficiency" category, with the former having a marginally better score (481) than the latter (477).

The report also said that in Vietnam, where per capita income last year reached $3,498 and over 70 percent of the population has internet access, men were better at English than women.

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 major cities like Hanoi and HCMC, many parents send their children to English centers at an early age.

In Vietnam’s latest national high school exams, the average English score was lowest among nine subjects.

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