China speaks better English than India: study
India has lost out to China in an international ranking of foreign countries' English speaking ability.
New Delhi: Despite its British colonial legacy and reputation as an English-speaking nation, India has lost out narrowly to emerging economic giant China in an international ranking of foreign countries' English speaking ability.
China with a ranking of 29 is one place above India at 30 in the 2011 English Proficiency Index but the economic rivals both have a "low-proficiency" score awarded by Education First, the world's largest privately held education company.
According to the EF report, 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.
China is poised to surpass India in the number of English speakers in the coming years, it said.
Taiwan and Hong Kong also have scores that are lower than many would expect. Both show that economic development and spending on education alone are not equivalent to high levels of English proficiency.
Malaysia emerged as the highest proficiency country in Asia and the only high proficiency country outside Europe and is an excellent example of how English can be used to bridge linguistic divides between different communities within the same country, the report said.
Norway has the highest level of English proficiency and Kazakhstan is at the bottom of the ranking.
China's proficiency has been attributed to the government's motivation both in training children via the public schools and in retraining adults, particularly those in the public sector.
India losing its edge
Though the report itself mentions that it could not be guaranteed to be representative of any country as a whole, India nevertheless may have a cause to worry for losing its edge since its English proficiency is a key factor in the boom in its business process outsourcing industry.
Forty-four countries and territories were represented in this year's index to illustrate the wide range of English skills around the world today and the study used data from 2.4 million adults globally who took free online English tests between 2007 and 2008.
EF English Proficiency Index also shows that more people are learning English than ever before and that within the next decade as many as two billion people will be learning English at any given time.
The EF English Proficiency Index (EPI) is a standardized measurement of adult English proficiency, comparable between countries and over time.
It is the first index of its kind to give countries a benchmark against which to measure the average English competency of the working population.
Why English proficiency is important
The report says that the most important factor for US and UK companies when considering outsourcing business processes is the education level of the local population and English proficiency.
Developing countries ready to tap into the business process outsourcing boom recognize that producing large numbers of skilled graduates able to communicate in English is the most reliable way to expand their service economy.
A strong service economy is in turn essential to creating a middle class, strengthening spending, and growing the national economy.
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