For the first time ever, Belgium obtained the grade of “very high proficiency” in the annual English Proficiency Index (EPI), published on Tuesday by the international organization Education First (EF). Belgium placed 11th out of 88 countries ranked in the EF’s EPI, with a proficiency score of 63.52. It was among 12 countries that obtained the “Very High Proficiency” grade. Sweden topped the list with an EF EPI score of 70.72, thus regaining the slot lost last year to the Netherlands, second this year on 70.31 points. With a score of 68.63, Singapore earned third place, marking the first time an Asian country is in the top 3.
Other European countries in the Very High Proficiency bracket include: Norway (4th, 68.38 points), Denmark (5th, 67.34), Luxembourg (7th, 66.33), Finland (8th, 65.86), Slovenia (9th, 64.84) Germany (10th, 63.74) and Austria (12th, 63,13).
In Belgium, there is a significant gap between the French- and Dutch-speaking communities and without the latter, the country’s ranking would not have been as high. While the country’s Dutch speakers dropped from 65.45 points in 2017 to 64.33 points this year, they are still way ahead of the Francophones who, with 58.77 points, would have been in 23rd place on the EF EPI ranking. To earn a “Very High Proficiency” grade, a country needs to score at least 63 points, so Belgium’s Francophones would have earned a “High Proficiency” ranking.
Still, Belgium’s Francophones have done better than the French, who lost three places between 2017 and 2018. They now rank 35th, with “Moderate” mastery of English, behind the Italians (34th) and Spaniards (32nd).
The report concludes that Francophone Belgium has always lagged behind Dutch-speaking Belgium even though the gap has been reduced this year, and still needs to work on learning and mastering English.
For its index, EF tested 1.3 million non-native English speakers above the age of 18, including 20,000 Belgians.