There’s many an American international school in Bangkok, teaching English courses to its students, but the country, overall, isn’t that proficient in English, according the rankings from the EF English Proficiency Index.
The 2018 iteration of the index noted that Thailand dropped 11 spots in the proficiency rankings for non-native English speaking countries, placing it at 64th among the 88 countries and territories listed in the index. The year’s ranking was conducted by the Swiss language school operator Education First, which has branches worldwide, and is based on data from 1.3 million adults who took the EF SET, the EF Standard English Test, in 2017.
The latest results has Thailand earning a score of 48.54, classified as low proficiency, which is a drop from 2017, where the country scored 49.7, ranking 53rd out of 80 countries.
In the East Asia region, Thailand ranked in as one of the countries with the worst English proficiency, alongside Cambodia and Myanmar. The country’s far behind China and Japan, which are considered to have poor English proficiency.
The EF English Proficiency Index 2018’s top 5 are:
- Sweden: 70.7;
- Netherlands: 70.3;
- Singapore: 68.6;
- Norway: 68.3, and;
- Denmark: 67.3.
The bottom 5 are:
- Afghanistan: 43.6;
- Uzbekistan: 42.5;
- Cambodia: 42.8;
- Iraq: 40.8, and;
- Libya: 39.64.
In Asia, the top countries are:
- Philippines: 14th;
- India: 28th;
- Hong Kong: 30th;
- South Korea: 31st;
- Vietnam: 41st;
- Macau: 44th;
- China: 47th;
- Taiwan: 48th, and;
- Japan at 49th.
One of the key findings of the report is that, in spite of globalisation, the rising popularity of international schools, like an American international school in Bangkok, and investment in English learning in Asia, English proficiency in the region has not improved much.
New correlations in the data show that societies with better English proficiency were more egalitarian. Women are also outdoing men in English skills across the world, and the gender gap has only continued to widen since 2016.
Thai Education Minister TeerakiatJareonsettasin says that its key that they develop the English skills of their students, noting that every Thai student studies the language for at least 12 years in primary and secondary school but most remain unable to speak or communicate in it regularly. He points to this as the major obstacle stopping Thailand from becoming globally competitive.
Teerakiat believes that the main issues are the English skills of Thai teachers and the methodology; which focuses on language accuracy and memorisation rather than communication, resulting in students unable to effectively converse in English. Additionally, many Thai students were noted to have a negative or poor attitude towards English classes.