No, it's not your imagination – it turns out that English levels in Hong Kong are on the decline. Released today, the results of Education First's sixth annual English Proficiency Index make for some pretty grim reading. Our city sits at number 30 on the list of 72 countries, with a score of 54.29 out of a possible 100, placing us firmly in the moderate-to-lower end of the scale. It's a pretty significant drop from our 12th placing at the time of the first survey in 2011, but probably not exactly a coincidence given the rising importance of Putonghua, especially in schools as a second language.
On the global survey, Hong Kong now ranks lower than many Balkan states, former Soviet nations, and even one place lower than the linguistically parochial French. We're also sixth in Asia out of 19 countries – the lowest of the major former Commonwealth states in the East – and even below South Korea. While we maintain a higher ranking than both Macau (no. 37) and China (no. 39), the figures become particularly intriguing when China is broken down into its constituent parts: Hong Kong this year has come in second behind Shanghai, who received a score of 55.54. Beijing came in third. Shanghai's rise up the rankings has been a rapid one, with an improvement of 4.35 points over the last five surveys. It should be noted though that the survey was conducted exclusively online, meaning that speaking skills weren't put to the test. Even still, the results are less than encouraging.
Globally, northern European countries continued their domination of the index, with the Netherlands coming out on top overall with a score of 72.16. The top five was rounded out by the Scandinavian nations and Finland. Singapore placed in sixth. The full list of results can be found here.
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