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Thailand ranks near bottom in English proficiency

Thailand ranks 62 out of 70 countries in a global ranking of English skills by EF Education First.

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In 2015, English is widely accepted as the primary international language, and it is increasingly defined as a basic skill required of every student in every education system.

But not in every country : Thailand ranks 62 out of 70 countries in a global ranking of English skills by EF Education First.

The fith edition of the report also shows a worrying trend for Thailand : the country showed very little improvement and desperately sticks to the bottom of the charts.

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Thailand proficiency trend in English shows little or no improvement during the last five years

This fifth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) ranks 70 countries and territories based on test data from more than 910,000 adults who took the online English tests in 2014. EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), is the world’s largest ranking of countries by English skills.

The report identifies global and regional English-language learning trends and analyses the relationship between countries’ English proficiency and their economic competitiveness.

Thailand scored 45.35 out of 100, while Sweden (70.94) was on top, following by the Netherlands (70.58) and Denmark (70.05).

In Asian countries, Singapore ranked 1st with a score of 61.08, followed by Malaysia (60.30), and India, South Korea and Vietnam at 6th (53.81).

In Asia, only Mongolia and Cambodia have a lower score than Thailand. Two Asean countries (Singapore and Malaysia) are leading the pack in Asia, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia at 8th  (52.91).

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  • Asia has a high level of English skill diversity, with three countries in the High Proficiency band as well as several in the lowest proficiency band. Asia is by far the most populous region in the index, so this diversity is not unexpected.
  • Worldwide, English proficiency levels are highest among young adults aged 18-20. However, on a global level, the difference in English ability between age cohorts is extremely small for adults under 30. On a national level, the story is quite different, with some countries showing stark generational differences and others almost none.
  • English is likewise critical to science and engineering. Countries with higher English proficiency have more researchers and technicians per capita, as well as larger expenditures for research and development. The ability to learn from the research of others, participate in international conferences, publish in leading journals, and collaborate with multinational research teams is dependent upon excellent English.
  • The interaction between English proficiency and Gross National Income per capita seems to be a virtuous cycle – improving English skills drives up salaries, which in turn encourages governments and individuals to invest more in English training. In many countries, higher English proficiency corresponds to fewer young people who are unemployed or not in training.

Thai Labor force needs further improvement to prepare for AEC

It has been suggested that the quality of Thai skilled labor in all fields should be further developed in order to prepare for the free flow of ASEAN professionals after the formal establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of 2015.

A market home to 600 million

This new market entity  is home to more than 600 million people, almost double the population of the United States. The combined economy will be the seventh largest in the world, comparable to that of Britain or Brazil. Language skills will matter in the new single market, especially in English.

Open economic integration also comes with more competition. With the upcoming AEC economic integration, bilingual and multilingual individuals will be very advantageous at finding job positions and getting promotions.

Bangkok Correspondent for Siam News Network. Editor at Thailand Business News

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