The Netherlands, Singapore, and Austria Top Countries with Best English
EF Education First (EF) today released the 2022 edition of its EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), analyzing data from 2.1 million non-native English speakers in 111 countries and regions. The Netherlands retained first place, while Singapore surged to second, cracking the top three again since becoming the first ASEAN nation to do so in 2018.
"This year's index reflects the pandemic's impact – from a concerning decline in English proficiency among young people to unexpectedly high proficiency outside big cities, which has remote work implications," said EF EPI author Kate Bell. "The report tracks stories of remarkable progress and discouraging setbacks."
The EF EPI is based on scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), used by governments, companies, and schools for large-scale testing as well as millions of individual test takers.
Key findings include:
- English proficiency improved for adults over 25, with over 40s improving the most. Proficiency among adults 21 – 25 was unchanged but declined for the 18-20 cohort by a striking 50 points since 2020.
- In Europe, lower-proficiency groups are catching up, with large countries bordering the European Union fueling the region's continuing rise. Europe is the only region where young adults have not lost ground.
- Central and South America continue to improve remarkably; but have the widest age-related score difference in the world, with scores for the 18-20 cohort declining significantly since 2020.
- Asia's regional average declined slightly due to drops in the Philippines and China, although most countries surveyed improved somewhat and three climbed into a higher proficiency band.
- This year, the gender gap has widened, with men's English proficiency continuing to outpace women. This appears to be driven by biased education systems or unequal access.
- Large cities don't always have the best English. Of the 500+ cities measured, 130 did not outscore their region and another 130 barely did. This has implications for recruitment given the shift toward remote work.
- English proficiency in Africa and the Middle East was stable. Outcomes remain stubbornly low across ages in the Middle East, although a narrowing gender-related proficiency gap is a positive development. Africa has some of the widest proficiency gaps in the world, both in age and gender.
The EF EPI report is available for download.