Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Educators downplay dismal English grade

Educators downplay dismal English grade

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Students take a lesson from their teacher in Phnom Penh’s Wat Koh High School. Pha Lina

Educators downplay dismal English grade

Top Cambodian educators have downplayed a global report that ranked the Kingdom 77th out of 80 countries in English proficiency, saying that language skills would not hurt economic competitiveness in the region.

The latest edition of the English Proficiency Index, published by Education First, placed Cambodia ahead of only Libya, Iraq and Laos.

The Kingdom’s score of 40.86 – up slightly from 39.48 in the last report – placed it behind Algeria and Cameroon. Vietnam was ranked 34th in the index and Thailand 53rd.

Royal University of Phnom Penh Board of Trustees chairman Mey Kalyan disagreed with the index but conceded that some areas of education needed improvement.

“English proficiency among Cambodians is not a problem. The worry is about technical knowledge which is still weak. In terms of logical and critical thinking, we are still behind our neighbouring countries,” he said.

Kalyan said Cambodia had recently expanded its investment in English education, and that the language is now widely taught as early as kindergarten to give Cambodians an advantage in the business world.

‘Improved significantly’

Even so, the index says that learning English is only a starting point.

“For developing countries, the transition from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy requires adults with strong English skills who are able to collaborate internationally,” the index said.

Westline Education Group president and CEO Pech Bolene also said the index does not reflect reality.

“The ability of Cambodians who use proper English has improved significantly from year to year,” he said.

He pointed out that Cambodian students won the Junior Chamber International world public speaking award in 2015 in Japan against 115 countries that participated and that the English language skills of Cambodians have already paid dividends.

“If we compare the English knowledge of Cambodia entrepreneurs with neighbouring countries like Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam – excluding the Philippines and Singapore where English is the second language – I think the ability of Cambodian entrepreneurs are competitive or even better,” Bolene said.

The Philippines ranked 15th in the index, and Singapore was 5th.

The Education First report did not reveal the number of test takers from Cambodia, but it said only countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the index.

It described its annual index as, “The world’s largest ranking of countries and regions by English skills”.

The report recognised that the test-taking population represented in the index is self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative of the country or region as a whole.

“Only those who want to learn English or are curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests. This could skew scores lower or higher than those of the general population,” the study said.

Overall, according to the index, Asia ranked second in the world after Europe among non-native English speakers.

“This high proficiency helps underpin Asia’s prosperous economy, which has been growing significantly for years,” it said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Shipments of mango to South Korea poised to begin this week

    Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea will begin this week after Korean authorities gave the nod. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements director Ker Monthivuth told The Post on Sunday that after several inspections of

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that