Now, this information has definitely taken me by surprise – Isn’t India known globally for its large English speaking population ? Infact, that is one of the main reasons why IT services has seen such tremendous growth in India over past decade or so.
However, when I came across recently released EF EPI [Education First – English Proficiency Index], I was literally stunned. According to the EF EPI rankings, India is ranked lower than China in English Proficiency. While China ranks at 29th, India is ranked at 30th in the world for English language proficiency!
What is even more surprising is that countries like South Korea and Japan are ranked much higher than India. Among all the Asian countries, Malaysia ranks the highest and is even amongst the Top 10 most English proficient countries in the world. I had visited Japan (ranked 14th) few months back and I was in Tokyo. In my nearly 4 day stay, the biggest hurdle I faced was English. I just could not converse with any locals in English…at all!
On the contrary, if you visit any city or large town in India, you will always find people who know English – even if it is broken (with a real big Indian accent!).
If you go through the entire report of EF EPI – you will find no real reasoning for why India ranks so low in proficiency. Here is what the report says:
Asia’s English proficiency scores show that reputations are not always accurate. Take for example the nearly equivalent scores of China and India. Despite its British colonial legacy and reputation as an English-speaking nation, India is today no more proficient in English than rapidly improving China.
Indeed, although it is very difficult to measure the number of people who speak English in each country because of different definitions of proficiency, the British Council estimated in 2010 that India had anywhere between 55 and 350 million English speakers while a report published by Cambridge University Press estimates that China has 250 to 350 million English learners.
It appears that China is poised to surpass India in the number of English speakers in the coming years, if it has not already done so.
We always take such surveys and reports with a pinch of salt. Although the numbers are never accurate, they do tend to give the general representation of ground realities. However, this report seems to give the consensus is opposite direction (atleast, that what my personal opinion is).
The report also gives very vague idea of what methodology was used – The report simply says:
The index uses a unique set of test data from over two million adults who took free online English tests over a period of three years.
My take is – India probably has the most number of proficient English speaking people in Asia. There are many simple points which can prove that. Take for example the number of English Dailies in India and number of people who consume it. In Japan, you will not find more than 3-4 English dailies. I am not too sure of China, but I doubt if people read English dailies there. While in India, we have probably 15 – 20 major English Newspapers. Similarly, how many English TV channels does China or Japan have? We in India probably have more than 100 !
So, what is your take? Do you agree with the findings of the report ?