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10 African countries have very low proficiency in English – Report

10 African countries have very low proficiency in English – Report

English proficiency is essential for global communication, education, and economic progress. Yet, many African nations encounter hurdles in mastering the language due to historical, linguistic, and socio-economic factors.

Overcoming these challenges demands focused initiatives to bolster English education, expand exposure to English-speaking environments, and ensure equitable access to quality education for all citizens.

The Education First  English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) ranks countries based on the equity of English language skills among adult test-takers.

The EF EPI 2023 edition used data from 2.1 million self-selected test-takers in 2022, representing 113 countries and territories. Each included country had at least 400 test-takers.

English proficiency within the score band of 449 to 425 is considered “very low,” while scores ranging from 424 to 400 are also categorized as “very low.” Additionally, any score below 400 falls within the “very low” proficiency level.

The report highlighted that English proficiency among young people aged 18-20 is declining in a few large countries while remaining stable or temporarily affected by pandemic disruptions elsewhere.

The long-term impact of COVID-related learning loss is uncertain, but subsequent cohorts may show improvement.

Also, the challenge lies in countries where declining proficiency persists, indicating weaker English education systems. Country-specific trends by age group can be found on the EF EPI website.

Here are the 10 African countries that have very low proficiency in English in 2023

Democratic Republic of the Congo – Score: 385

The Democratic Republic of the Congo struggles with English proficiency due to historical and linguistic factors. French is the official language, and while English is taught in schools, limited resources and focus on other languages hinder proficiency levels.

Libya – Score: 392

Libya is a former British colony, and English proficiency remains low in Libya. Political instability and a focus on Arabic as the primary language contribute to the challenges of mastering English.

Rwanda – Score: 405

Rwanda’s low English proficiency can be attributed to its emphasis on Kinyarwanda and French in education and governance. Limited exposure to English-speaking environments also plays a role in this scenario.

Ivory Coast – Score: 409

Although English is taught in Ivorian schools, the prevalence of French as the dominant language and limited English-speaking opportunities hinders proficiency.

Somalia – Score: 411

Somalia’s focus on Somali and Arabic languages impedes English proficiency. Education disruptions and lack of infrastructure further exacerbate the challenge of mastering English.

Benin – Score: 416

Benin faces obstacles in English proficiency due to a strong emphasis on French in education and governance. Limited resources and exposure to English-speaking environments contribute to this low proficiency band.

Angola – Score: 416

Portuguese is the official language of Angola, relegating English to a secondary position in education and society. Limited resources for English instruction and a focus on Portuguese hinder proficiency levels.

Sudan – Score: 430

Sudan’s linguistic diversity, with Arabic being the dominant language, poses challenges to English proficiency. Socio-political instability and limited access to quality education further impede proficiency levels.

Senegal – Score: 438

Senegal is a former French colony, Senegal struggles with English proficiency due to limited resources allocated to English education. French remains the primary language of instruction and governance.

Cameroon – Score: 438

Cameroon’s bilingual status (French and English) presents unique challenges in mastering both languages. However, English proficiency lags due to resource disparities, with French receiving more emphasis in education.