As a growing number of districts and states in the United States embrace biliteracy, the world’s English-language skills continue to improve, says a newly released study from EF Education First, a private language-training company.
The EF English Proficiency Index is an annual report card that ranks the English-language skills of adults in 70 countries. The rankings are based on test data from more than 900,000 adults participating in online tests.
The snapshot of global English-language-learner trends found that European countries, particularly the Nordic nations, continue to outperform other regions. On the other end of the spectrum, the Middle East and North Africa constitute the lone region to experience a decline in English-language proficiency, according to the report.
China dropped 10 places to 47th place in the ranking, which may be of note to U.S. educators, who are increasingly embracing dual-language learning, especially when it comes to Mandarin. In September, President Obama, announced a nationwide effort to have 1 million American students studying Mandarin by 2020.
The ramp-up has already gained steam. Roughly 10 Mandarin dual-language programs in K-12 schools existed in the United States before 2009. That number has now swelled to nearly 200.
Government and business leaders have called on schools to help the nation develop a multilingual workforce. The push has triggered substantial growth in the number of dual-language programs.
Most of the countries that moved ahead of China this year were from Latin America, where Spanish and Portuguese are the dominant languages.
“These Latin American countries have kicked off ambitious national initiatives focused on English-language training,” wrote report co-author Minh Tran, EF’s director of research. “The Chinese government, on the other hand, has questioned how much emphasis should be placed on English training in the public education system.”
According to the report, coming changes to China’s college entrance exam also will deemphasize English learning for certain students, but private English-learning centers are becoming more popular.
Graphic Source: EF Education First English Proficiency Index
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.