Indonesia is falling behind Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries in the region in English proficiency, a survey by an international education company has shown. (Reuters Photo/Iqro Rinaldi)

Indonesia Falling Behind Vietnam in English Proficiency: Survey


DECEMBER 08, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesia is falling behind Malaysia, Vietnam and other countries in the region in English proficiency, a survey by an international education company has shown.

According to Education First's English proficiency Index (EPI), which ranks countries by their skills in the language, Indonesia is in 32nd place out of 72 countries surveyed.

The country scored 52.91 points, which places it in a "moderate" proficiency band. All the countries surveyed are non-English speaking.

EF surveyed 400 respondents in each country and measured their English proficiency, including grammar, reading, comprehension and vocabulary, via online and on-the-spot tests at EF branches. The Indonesian respondents, with an average age of 28, were from Jakarta, West Java, Banten, East Java, Yogyakarta, Central Java and North Sumatra.

In Southeast Asia, the champion is Singapore, sitting in sixth place with 63.52 points, while Malaysia was in 12th place with 60.70 points and the Philippines in 13th place with 60.33 points. Vietnam beat Indonesia to the 31st spot with 54.06 points.

However, Indonesia beat Thailand, which is in 56th place with 47.21 points, and Cambodia, in 69th place with 39.48 points.

The overall winner among the 72 countries surveyed was the Netherland, with 72.16 points.

The EPI, considered an international benchmark for adult English proficiency in non-English speaking countries, also identifies key areas in which they can improve and avoid common pitfalls in developing English language skills.

Steve Crooks, EF director for educational research and development, said improving English language skills is important to increase global competitiveness.

"Enhancing English language skills will bring in multinational companies and attract high-skill, high-paying jobs," Crooks said during a media gathering in Jakarta on Thursday (08/12).

Although Indonesia, with the world's fourth-largest workforce, is one of Asia's leading economies and a global economic power, experts say a lack of workers with strong English language skills has reduced the country's competitiveness among its neighboring rivals.

"English is the global language of business," Crooks said. "All major businesses that operate in more than one country need to have workers that can communicate professionally in English."

The importance of English language skills is not only applicable in the workforce but also in digital and information technology.

Berly Martawardaya, a senior economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), said most technological fields use English as the main language of communication, which further demonstrates the need to focus on developing English proficiency in the country.

"English is now a basic skill for the labor force and it's critical to all industries to communicate in English with colleagues through technology," said Berly, who participated in EF's media gathering on Thursday.

"We cannot be complacent and let our neighbors overtake us in this global race," he added.

EF has a presence in 53 countries, including Indonesia, and among those making use of its services are students, professionals, corporations, children and teenagers. EF English First Indonesia has a presence in 72 locations and 32 cities in the archipelago.