Bangladesh's ranking in the English-language proficiency rose by eight notches to 63rd among 100 countries and regions, says the latest report by Switzerland-based Education First (EF) – an international education company that specialises in language training.
English Proficiency Index (EPI) 2020 – the tenth edition of the report released on 17 November – analysed the English skills of non-native English speaking countries and regions globally. Last year, Bangladesh was in the 71st position among 100 countries.
However, Bangladesh's EPI average score was 476 out of 800 in the 2020 index, which not only fell short of the global average score of 550, but also the 24 Asian countries' average score of 492.
Bangladesh fell behind Ethiopia – which ranked 62nd with a score of 477 in the index, but managed to stay ahead of Vietnam (473) and United Arab Emirates (472).
With this score, Bangladesh has been listed in the "Low Proficiency" category this year, while it was listed in the "Very Low Proficiency" category in the ninth edition. The index places the surveyed countries and territories into five proficiency bands, from Very High to Very Low.
The index ranked six South Asian countries where India (50th), Nepal (60th), Pakistan (61st) Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (68th) listed in the "Low Proficiency" category and only Afghanistan (79th) listed under the "Very Low Proficiency."
The Netherlands topped the index globally with a very high English proficiency score of 652, followed by Denmark and Finland. With a very low proficiency score of 381, Tajikistan placed at the bottom of the index.
The score is based on test data of 2.2 million test takers from 100 nations who participated in EF Standard English Test in 2020 or English placement tests in 2019.
Among the participants, 54% were female and most of the participants were aged between 21 and 40.
About the test and sampling biases
The test is online based, where English listening and reading skills were tested to classify language ability of the test takers in six levels under to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
In order to be included in the index, any country, city or region needs to have at least 400 test takers. For example, Maldives and Libya were not included in the current edition due to lack of test takers, while they were included in the previous edition.
However, the test takers were self-selected. Anybody can participate in the test at his or her own will. So, test takers from a country are not necessarily representative. So, actual proficiency of a country can be higher or lower than the index score.
British Council's opinion
When approached for comments regarding the English Proficiency Index 2020, the British Council in a statement said, "Although it is difficult to reflect if the representation gives a true nationwide picture, there is more interest now to increase proficiency in English among children, teenagers and adults – either to explore international educational and career opportunities or to gain better career prospects in the country, as more international correspondence are occurring in the workplace.
It added, "Being confident with the English language can enhance life in so many ways. It can improve social life and career prospects, and can even help make the most out of the internet."