English: Dividing the World

Take 30 seconds and reflect.

Now, read the poem below:

dominating power

in the eye of the [western] beholder
will unite the world

your language
does not matter

jolts all the tectonic plates

creating chaos
dividing the world


What is Education First’s English Proficiency Index?

Education First is a company that strives to “open the world through education” by providing life-changing education. The company has eight editions of the English Proficiency Index (EPI). EPI is an online English test that adults, secondary, and tertiary students can take. Its components are reading, listening, and grammar. About 1.3 million people have self-selected to take this test and countries, regions, and cities are ranked from “very high proficiency” to “very low proficiency”.

EPI Facts

  • This past year, Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, Bolivia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Senegal, and Uzbekistan have been added to the ranking, but Cuba, Qatar, Mongolia, Angola, Cameroon, and Laos have been excluded due to not enough participants.
  • The report has multiple graphs that plot all of the countries with variables like English and talent, income, innovation, scholarship, women with bank accounts, etc.

My Observations

I was disturbed while reading this report. There were so many claims that seemed pure nonsense. But after reading the executive summary, I stopped and decided to take the test myself. I am a graduate student and have taken multiple standardized tests, so I am aware of my “English proficiency”. Take some time to read some questions I was presented with along with my results:

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While taking the test, it seemed like there was more than one possible correct answer. There was also a listening section, which was of various voices with different accents and used lingo. For example, one of the listening activities said, “I will pop into the store…”. And not every English learner or user will comprehend that phrase. After reflecting on the exam and the report, I realized that the English users who take the test are representative of the entire country, which makes it more outrageous that this test’s ranking is respected and used by the world.

How is the World Reacting?

EPI claims that societies that speak English are more open and egalitarian, less hierarchical, and fairer to women. Education First has also stated that English is vital as it is the main language of communication for international exchange of goods, services, and ideas. And the worst part is that people are fully trusting these statements and making alterations in their education system.

  • Finland ranked the worst in Nordic countries. This test has introduced debates on whether to make English an official language and whether to have an English high school matriculation exam.
  • Belarus felt achievement that they finally made it to the charts – 38th position.
  • In Switzerland, officials feel the need to explain why they are stuck in the second tier of countries by saying that children have to learn a national language as well as English, so it maybe a lot for children to handle.
  • Prague is categorized as the most improved country in Europe, which is a big accomplishment since the 2014 report.
  • Taiwan’s score decreased by 0.16 points and placed in the low category. Disappointed, the Education First branch chief said that they will be looking at adopting bilingual education and plan to make English the second official language.
  • Myanmar officials and ambassadors now believe that having more English books will increase English proficiency and finding good careers.
  • France is not bothered by the rank as their main priority is to preserve French in their country.
  • China and Taiwan are having conflicts due to changes in English-teaching plans  as Taiwan wants to separate themselves from China and improve their English proficiency. Chinese language specialist said that the EPI does not define the true picture…assesses the listening, reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills, which were the focused areas of China’s old system but it doesn’t include writing and speaking, which is where schools focus on now.
  • Lastly, the Arab Region calls out for desperate repairs in their English language teaching, as it believes that it explains their lag in interconnectedness with the world and social progress.

EPI’s methodology seems flawed to me and I am angered that so many policy changes are happening due to this uninformed and invalid rank. There a multiple problems with this online test, (e.i. not having technology, not representative of the country, and correlating random variables with English like women with bank accounts) that should negate it’s validity and have countries realize the possible harm it is presenting in their country’s language and education system. Once again, English is dividing the world into categories.



Chung, K. (2018, November 9). Taiwan’s English proficiency ranking slips in EF’s indexTaipei Times. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

D, KM. (2018, November 9, 2018). China outperformed Hong Kong in global proficiency language ranking. Business Times. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Education First. (2018, November). EF EPI Eight EditionEducation First. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

[EF International Language Campuses]. (2014, November 19). EF English Proficiency Index – EP EPI[Video File]. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Kastner, J. (2018, November 9, 2018). Taiwan Angers China with English-Teaching PlansAsia Sentinel. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Mills, G. (2018, November 7). Why Switzerland still lags behind on English skillsThe Local Switzerland. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Belarus News. (2018, November 6). Belarus 28th in EF English Proficiency IndexBelarus News. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Modrá, K. (2018, November 8). Prague ranks among the world’s top 10 most English-proficient citiesExpats.cz. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Paint, Z.P. (2018, November 9, 2018). Donated books help students. Myanmar Times. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Romdhani, O. (2018, November 11, 2018). Lost in translationThe Arab Weekly. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

The Local. (2018, November 8). French ranked worst in western Europe for level of English. The Local France. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

Uutiset. (2018, November 6). Finland bottom of the Nordic English classUutiset. Retrieved November 10, 2018.

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