Have you ever asked this question yourself?
Recently I have been very interested in how Japan compares to other countries in terms of English proficiency. So far, I haven’t found so many resources on the subject. This is one exception: Education First’s 2011 study, EF EPI: English Proficiency Index. Take a look at the chart below to see the rankings:
Reading the report, you’ll discover that they used written, multiple choice tests of Adults taken voluntarily over the course of 3 years. It’s practical in the sense that they are getting a portrait of people who have already completed the English program.
I see a few problems in calculating the index this way, however. For instance, the test does not measure oral communication ability. And since it is volunteer, mostly those with an active interest in learning English are measured. This means it really is only a snapshot of the most eager English learners in Japan — as opposed to the general population’s English proficiency.
With these caveats in mind, the study is actually quite illuminating (and surprising). Read the full report to learn more about their conclusions and insights about English education and its implications.
What about Japan’s Rank?
As you’ll see in the chart above, Japan is ranked 14th out of 44 countries, with a score of “Moderate Proficiency”. The authors of the study don’t define their terminology in the ranking system. But they do say that,
“At the moderate proficiency level (EPI score 50-55) English skills are not well correlated with income, indicating that other factors play a larger role in determining national income for those countries.”
So the ranking does come with some implications. All the countries given the same ranking of “Moderate Proficiency” are:
Poland (ranking: 10)
Hong Kong (12)
South Korea (13)
Czech Republic (19)
Do these results jive with your expectations for how countries would rank? Personally, I was surprised to see Japan rank higher than France and Mexico, which, I figured would rank a lot higher — France because of its importance and location in Europe, and Mexico because of its proximity to America.
Again, this is a multiple choice test, measuring grammar and reading comprehension. Of course, a study that included measurements of oral proficiency could produce entirely different results.
What are your reactions to this study? Please provide links or references to other pertinent studies about English education in Japan if you have any.