India, China at par in Malaysian English proficiency survey

April 9th, 2011 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, April 9 (IANS) India and China have been placed at par in an English language proficiency survey conducted here. It places Malaysia on top among all Asian nations and ninth globally.

While Prime Minister Najib Razak has said he is “proud” at Malaysia being placed on the top, The New Straits Times Saturday expressed “surprise” at India being placed at a level similar to China.

“Others may be astounded that countries with better English-speaking credentials, like India, lag far behind us. It’s certainly surprising that, given its British past and large population of English speakers, India is on a similar level as China,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

Media reports on the first ever “Education First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) 2011″ report have not indicated the precise ranking of India and China.

Many other surveys have noted that India has the highest number of English-knowing population and the language is used by millions in education, commerce and public discourse.

Malaysia is the only Asian country rated as “high proficiency” for the English proficiency level in the report.

Education First, a global education centre, conducted online English tests on 2.3 million working adults globally from year 2007 to 2009. English proficiency was tested in four categories — grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening.

The EF EPI measures the average English proficiency of an entire country and compares English skill levels between countries.

For Malaysia, the findings come amid an ongoing debate whether Mathematics and Science should be taught in English or in the local Bahasa Malaysia that is spoken by the majority Malays.

The ethnic Chinese and Indians want it to continue in English.

Najib said last Saturday that the government would study the possibility of using two mediums of instruction in the teaching of Science and Mathematics in schools.

The NST editorial said: “Malaysia’s standing as the country with the best command of English in Asia and the only non-European high-proficiency country definitely defies the widely-held view that the standard of English has declined with the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction.”

It noted that most Scandinavian countries had recorded “stellar performance” in proficiency even though English language was studied as a foreign language.

“… just as the Northern Europeans are motivated to learn English because they realise that it is the only way to survive in the global economy, …every Malaysian must fully appreciate the cold, hard fact that mastery of English has become an indispensable asset in today’s world,” the newspaper said.

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