Saudi Arabia rises in English proficiency ranking

Delegates at the EF EPI conference pose for a group photo on Wednesday in Riyadh. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Saudi Arabia rises in English proficiency ranking

  • Scoring 43.65, Saudi Arabia is ranked 83rd in the world, ahead of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Libya

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has improved its ranking on the English proficiency index, a conference in the Kingdom heard on Wednesday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) holds the highest ranking among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, ranking 71 globally and scoring 47.27.
EF Education First, a global education company focusing on language, academic, cultural exchange and educational travel programs, held its eighth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) Conference for the first time in the Kingdom here on Wednesday.
EF Education First released its annual global ranking of English proficiency, the EF EPI 2018, drawing on data from 1.3 million non-native English speakers in 88 countries and regions, at the conference.
Sweden topped the EF EPI, scoring 70.72 and knocking last year’s top-scorer the Netherlands into second place with a score of 70.31.
Speaking at the conference, David Bish, director of academic management, EF Education First, said that this year’s report was the biggest league table to date; the process included 1.3 million test-takers, recording a 30 percent increase over the past year.
There are 13 new entrants in the index this year: Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, Bolivia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uzbekistan.
Lebanon has been added to the index for the first time, and is the top performer in the Middle East, ranking 33 globally with its score of 55.79, which has helped to lift the overall average of the region slightly.
Scoring 43.65, Saudi Arabia is ranked 83rd in the world, ahead of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Libya.
Bish said that the English language is predicted to play a bigger role in the region with initiatives that aim to diversify the economy, investment in jobs and the education system.
Of Saudi Arabia, he said: “We have seen it improving over the last four years and making progress in the region’s index.”
Sharing some of the key findings, he said that Europe remains the global leader in English proficiency, with eight of the top 10 spots in the ranking. Africa had shown strong gains in English proficiency, with South Africa ranking sixth globally. Other rankings were: Nigeria (29), Senegal (39), Ethiopia (54), Egypt (62), Morocco (67), Tunisia (68), Algeria (81) and Libya (88).
Women continued to outsmart men in English skills worldwide, the index showed.
Bish told Arab News that the EF EPI was based on three tests. These are online tests using an EF scale of 1 to 80 in line with a common European frame of reference, and scores are put together to give an average score for each country.
“We need more than 3,000 people to take the tests before we prepare the index,” he said.
The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. Thousands of schools, companies, and governments worldwide use the EF SET for large-scale testing.
EF EPI research finds that countries and individuals continue to invest in English education, recognizing the importance of the language as a lever for competitiveness.
Speaking at the conference, Jan Knutsson, the Swedish ambassador, expressed happiness about his country returning to the top spot.
For a country wishing to do the best in education, economy, trade and commerce, proficiency in English is key, he said.
Abdulrahman S. Alfuraih, general supervisor of English language at the Ministry of Education, said knowing the methodology and how it is prepared was important in building better results.

“We are improving and working continuously to further improve,” he said, adding that English is linked with the job market and so it is important to gain proficiency in it.
The ministry is working on an “English for All” program, he said.
There is also “Khebrat,” a teacher professional development program provided by the ministry for teachers of all subjects that aims to qualify Saudi cadres to take leadership in public education through training abroad at the best learning centers.
The teachers are sent to the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand to join the academic program and improve their proficiency. When they return they share their experiences with students to help in teaching and assessment.


Saudi Crown prince’s India visit will help expand ties beyond energy

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India will boost robust interactions that New Delhi has established with Saudi Arabia over the last few years. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2019
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Saudi Crown prince’s India visit will help expand ties beyond energy

  • New Delhi’s participation in Kingdom’s mega projects a major aspect of renewed ties: Talmiz Ahmad

NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to India is a landmark development in bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia, according to Talmiz Ahmad, a former ambassador to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil, but since taking office in 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to use India’s growing economy to attract more investment from Saudi Arabia beyond energy, and foster cooperation on trade, infrastructure and defense.

Ahmad, author of several books on the Arab world and twice India’s Ambassador to Riyadh, said that while the backbone of New Delhi’s relationship with the Kingdom is energy, the two sides had been discussing “how to give greater substance and longevity to the relationship on the basis of concrete projects.”

Reuters reported this week that India is expecting Prince Salman to announce an initial investment in its National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, a quasi-sovereign wealth fund, to help accelerate the building of ports and highways. Saudi Arabia has also suggested investing in India’s farming industry, with an eye on food imports to the Kingdom. 

Ahmad said Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project, a $500 billion smart city in Tabuk province on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, would also provide great opportunities for Indian companies. 

He added that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the crown prince’s blueprint to fundamentally transform Kingdom’s economy, presents another opportunity for Indian businesses to prosper from the relationship.

“India is extremely well placed,” said Ahmad. “We are world leaders in small and medium enterprises and in the services sector. Saudi Arabia also has proposals to develop its tourism and leisure sectors, and I believe India is also well placed in those areas too.”

He also discussed how the strategic partnership had been initiated by former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited Riyadh in 2010, but that Modi, who visited in 2016, had added “considerable substance” to the relationship.

He stressed, though, that Riyadh’s ties with India are independent of its relationship with Pakistan. He added India and Saudi Arabia were also working together to improve the security situation in Afghanistan, to resolve the 17-year conflict between government forces and the Afghan Taliban, as well as in the wider West Asia region. 

“India has excellent relations with all the countries in West Asia, and New Delhi is well placed to address some of the concerns that all the countries have with each other,” he said.