LONDON – The English proficiency level for Japanese was ranked 53rd in an annual survey of 100 non-English speaking countries and regions by EF Education First, down from 49th place in last year’s survey.
The grim status quo was highlighted at a time when teachers and others involved in English education in Japan were shaken by the government’s recent decision to postpone the introduction of private-sector English tests under a new unified university entrance examination system.
According to the results of the 2019 survey, the list was topped by the Netherlands, followed by Sweden in the second spot, Norway in the third place and Denmark in the fourth position, with European nations dominating the top slots.
Among Asian countries, Japan lagged behind Singapore, which came in 5th, the Philippines, in 20th, South Korea, in 37th, Taiwan, in 38th, and China, in 40th.
Japan’s English language skills also fell below the world average.
The country’s proficiency level was placed in the “low” category, which is the second-to-bottom group, alongside Russia, Vietnam and Iran.
Libya came in at 100th, and Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq placed near the bottom of the list.
Pointing to Japan’s rapidly aging society, the international education company, which is headquartered in Switzerland, said in its report on the latest survey that “if these experienced employees are to remain productive in a rapidly changing workplace, their longer careers need to be supported by expanded adult education provision, including English training.”
“That need is especially pressing in Japan, where English proficiency levels have declined for years, even as the economy stagnates and global trade moves elsewhere in Asia,” the report continued.
Overall, English language skills of women were slightly above those of men.
By age group, those aged 26-30 had the highest English proficiency, followed by those aged between 21 and 25, those aged 18-20, those between 31 and 40 and those aged 41 or over.
The ratings were based on results of tests conducted by EF Education First around the world on 2.3 million people.