MENA residents not proficient in the English language
Arabic is according to all MENA Arab countries’ Supreme Law, their official language but English is de-facto widely spoken in every sector of this group of countries, particularly those of the GCCs due to their large expat population.
As a matter of fact, it is not just the language of use in the private sector work environment, but also in most private schools. And yet, the UAE is ranked in the list of countries that are bracketed in the category of Low Proficiency in English language. UAE came out at the 42nd in EF English Proficiency Index 2015
According to a language training company EF Education First new study, the UAE is ranked first in the MENA countries but 42nd within the Low Proficiency group in the world. This year’s EF EPI report profiles 70 countries, using test data from 910,000 adult English language learners.
According to Wikipedia on the subject, “the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) is a report which attempts to rank countries by the average level of English skills amongst adults. It is the product of EF Education First, a global language training company, and draws its conclusions from data collected via English tests available for free over the internet. The report was published for the first time in March, 2011 based on the results of over 2 million test takers. The most recent, fourth edition was released in November, 2014…” In its 2015 report, EF Education First holds that :
“In 2015, English is widely accepted as the primary international language, and it is increasingly defined as a basic skill required of every student in every education system. Few countries continue to debate whether or not English should be taught. Instead, discussions of English instruction in public schools focus on which dialect of English is taught, how it is assessed, and how much English education is necessary. In continuing and professional education, where time and money are more carefully budgeted, adults learn English primarily for instrumental purposes.”
It also notes with respect to the UAE, “The UAE has weak English proficiency compared to most countries, but it is slightly more proficient than other countries in the Mena region. English is pervasive in the UAE, thanks to a highly multinational society and a large, trade-oriented economy.
“Any discussion of English proficiency in the UAE must note the fact that fewer than 20 per cent of the more than nine million residents of the country are Emirati citizens. The EF EPI classifies test takers based on their country of residence, not their country of origin. This gives an accurate sense of the level of English in the adult population, but because many of the people who completed our tests in the UAE have been educated in school systems abroad, their levels of English proficiency cannot be used to evaluate the education system in the UAE.”.
In the regional and global proficiency ranking, most of the MENA countries are at the bottom of the EF English Proficiency Index 2015 list.
“The Middle East and North Africa is the only region to experience declining English proficiency. Many of the countries in the region spend more per pupil than countries in Asia with similar levels of development, but this higher investment is not delivering better results.”
“In terms of English proficiency, both women and men are markedly behind global averages, and the gender gap in MENA is significantly wider than in any other region in the world,” the report noted. Women are generally and in the UAE in particular, found to be more proficient than men.
Globally, north European countries, specifically the Scandinavian nations, continue to outperform other regions, claiming the top ten places in the ranking with Sweden ranking first globally followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Poland and Austria.
India is 20th , Sri Lanka 49th in English proficiency despite their quasi natural use of this language for all inter-ethnic and / or inter-cultural everyday life exchanges.