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. Few countries continue to debate whether or not English should be taught. Instead, discussions of English instruction in public schools focus on which dialect of English is taught, how it is assessed, and how much English education is necessary. In continuing and professional education, where time and money are more carefully budgeted, adults learn English primarily for instrumental purposes.
The status of English today sets it apart from other foreign languages. In developed countries, educators and policymakers are more and more often discussing whether “English is enough,” and, if it is not, what accommodations should be made for other national and international languages in the curriculum. In developing countries, English is often tied to development goals, expansion of the service sector, and increased connectivity to the rest of the world. Each country approaches these questions from its own perspective, taking into account its distinctive history, internal linguistic landscape, and economic partners.
Increasingly, countries view English as a catalyst for development rather than a threat to national culture. However, much more will need to change before English can fulfill its potential to connect people to each other, spread information, and facilitate exchange. We believe the most essential shift needed is towards communicative teaching practices. In far too many countries, both rich and poor, English is still taught with little regard to its practical use. Until all English teachers are teaching English as a tool for communication, countries and individuals will not enjoy the full benefit of a global language.
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 our online English tests in 2014. This edition continues to track the evolution of English proficiency, looking back over the past eight years of EF EPI data.
In this fifth edition, regions are still the strongest predictor of English ability. This “neighborhood” effect is particularly strong in parts of Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Adult English proficiency does not change overnight, but in this fifth index, we are able to confirm trends of progress, stagnation, and decline that emerged in previous reports. We see that: