A survey by Swiss education company English First (EF) says that Malaysia has the highest English proficiency in Asia, even ahead of Singapore and South Korea who came in second and third respectively.

According to EF’s 2014 index, which surveyed 750,000 adults aged 18 and above, EF said Malaysia and Singapore were the only 2 Asian countries judged to have “a high proficiency” in English.

However, the rest of Asia had “a wide range of proficiency levels, with dramatic progress alongside persistent stagnation”.

The data was gathered from 2 tests administered by EF, one of them an online test open to all internet users consisting of 30 questions, and the other a 70 question non-adaptive placement test given to people seeking to enroll in the company’s English courses.

The tests include grammar, vocabulary, reading, and listening sections.

EF however has acknowledged that there are significant flaws in their methodology, and that the data samples they collect may not accurately reflect the average English proficiency of the countries in question.

“We recognise that the test-taking population represented in this index is self-selected and not guaranteed to be representative of the country as a whole,” it said on its website.

“Only those people either wanting to learn English or curious about their English skills will participate in one of these tests.”

Furthermore, because the tests are conducted online, only those with internet access and familiarity with online applications were included in the index.

“This sampling bias would tend to pull scores upward by excluding poorer, less educated, and less privileged people,” EF said.

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