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A survey conducted by international education company EF Education First (EF) places Macau 11th in Asia and 37th worldwide in terms of English proficiency.
This was the first time the MSAR was ranked separately from Hong Kong in the sixth annual EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), with the most recent study ranking 72 countries and territories based on test data from more than 950,000 adults who took EF’s online English tests last year.
“Every year we introduce more regions into the statistics and we had never included Macau before, a very international city in the Asia-Pacific region. The city is also the second administrative region in China and this was a good occasion to separate the city from Hong Kong,” the company’s Country Manager, Henry Wong told Business Daily.
Singapore ranked as having the highest English proficiency within Asia - with an average score of 63.52 - while Macau’s 51.36 score set the city in the ‘Low Proficiency’ category. The average MSAR respondent is considered as being able to ‘navigate an English-speaking country as a tourist’, and ‘engage in small talk’ and understand ‘simple e-mails’ from English-speaking colleagues.
With a 54.29 average in the survey, Hong Kong was placed 6th in Asia and 30th worldwide, a result Henry Wong considers is due to the region’s “British heritage and the importance given to English in the local education system”.
Mainland China, Japan and Pakistan were also included in the same ‘Low Proficiency’ category, with the MSAR ranking ahead of Mainland China.
The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden were respectively the first, second and third-highest ranking countries worldwide, according to the report.
In the MSAR data was collected from around 2000 online English surveys taken by local residents, taking into account data on grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening taken from an EF online free English skills test and the company’s online placement test used during its English course enrolment process.
EF warns that the test-taking population represented in the index is self-selected and thus is not representative of the region, since generally only people interested in learning or improving their English skills take the survey.
However Henry Wong told Business Daily that the survey participants' ages were all “over 18 and volunteers, with only 5 per cent of the (survey) takers actually being involved in EF activities”, although according to the Country Manager, last year there were 2000 Macau students involved in EF programmes, the same number of online English surveys completed in the city.
Founded in 1965 in Sweden, EF has offices and schools in 53 countries, but currently its office in Macau doesn’t provide English classes, only cultural exchange and educational travel services.