Taiwan ranked ninth among 12 Asian countries rated in an English skills index published in Chinese yesterday, outperforming only Vietnam, China and Thailand.
The result was reported by international education company Education First, which rated 1.7 million adults from 54 countries worldwide from 2009 to last year based on tests covering English listening and reading proficiency.
Taiwan ranked ninth in Asia and 30th in the world, and its global ranking was within the 26th-to-38th range that represents low proficiency, the company’s English Proficiency Index showed.
Singapore, Malaysia, India and Pakistan — countries where English is an official language — led Asian countries in the rankings, followed by South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
Globally, European countries, led by Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway, topped the list.
Commenting on Singapore and Malaysia’s English skills, Education First senior vice president Christopher McCormick said the two nations have higher levels of proficiency because of their multi-ethnic populations who rely on English to communicate.
Although South Korea (21st) and Japan (22nd) put a high priority on education, the lack of an English-speaking environment, the focus on memorization and passive interaction between teachers and students led to proficiency levels falling below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average, he said.
McCormick suggested that Taiwan improve the public’s English ability in general to boost its competitiveness internationally.
The report also highlighted the discrepancy in English proficiency among different industries. Employees in the tourism, consultancy and telecommunications sectors topped the list, while civil servants came in last.
However, Education First added that the test was voluntary and many people who are highly proficient in English were not likely to have taken it.
The company said the index does not necessarily represent the actual situation, but could serve as a reference for governments when drawing up education strategies.
The English version of the index was published late last month. Education First’s Taiwan branch released the Chinese-language version yesterday at an event attended by local high-school English teachers to discuss the nation’s English language education.