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Latin America

EF EPI Average: 50,54 Average Population: 552614516 GNI per capita: $ 15037

Proficiency:

  • Very High
  • High
  • Moderate
  • Low
  • Very Low
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Latin America EF EPI Average: 50,54

Proficiency:

  • Very High
  • High
  • Moderate
  • Low
  • Very Low
Learn More

LATIN AMERICA ACTS TO RAISE ENGLISH LEVELS

Adult English proficiency in Latin America is weak, and it has declined in many countries since last year. Of the 14 Latin American countries included in this year’s index, all but two – Argentina and the Dominican Republic – fall in the lowest proficiency bands.

SPANISH AS A REGIONAL LINGUA FRANCA

Unlike in Europe and Asia, where English is the language of regional communication, Spanish unites Latin America. This shared regional language dampens incentives to master English and, alongside underperforming public education systems, is a key factor in the region’s delayed progress towards higher English proficiency.

Although Spanish is the regional lingua franca, many Latin American countries recognize the value of an English-speaking workforce in a competitive global economy. These countries are investing in school reforms and teacher training programs aimed at raising English proficiency levels.

ARGENTINA STAYS AHEAD

Argentina is by far the strongest Latin American country in English proficiency. In general, English teachers in Argentina are highly qualified, as they must complete a five-year graduate program to teach in public schools. In its latest National Law of Education, passed in 2006, the Argentinian government made it mandatory for public schools to teach English as a foreign language to all students in grades four to twelve.

Argentina

Proficiency: High
EF EPI Score: 58,4
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BRAZIL AND MEXICO FOCUS ON STUDENT MOBILITY

Latin America’s two most populous countries, Brazil and Mexico, have focused on sending hundreds of thousands of students to English-speaking countries for short-term and degree programs.

In an attempt to leverage its proximity and ties to the United States, the Mexican government launched Project 100,000 last year. By 2018, the program plans to have sent 100,000 Mexican students to the U.S. for short-term, intensive English language courses. In return, the U.S. has promised to send 50,000 students to study in Mexico by 2018. These bilateral initiatives aim to strengthen linguistic competency on both sides of the border.

In 2013, Brazil’s Ministry of Education created English Without Borders to prepare university students for graduate studies in English-speaking countries. Since its launch, English Without Borders has tested and trained hundreds of thousands of students at hundreds of schools and universities across all Brazilian states.

Additionally, Brazil used the preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympics to build enthusiasm for English learning. The Ministries of Education and Tourism launched multiple English and Spanish training programs for different sectors of the population.

COUNTRIES LEVERAGE TEACHER TRAINING

Most English education reform initiatives in the region include training programs for local English teachers. Governments believe that investing in professional development for teachers will improve the English proficiency of generations of students. Our research supports this belief, consistently showing that investment in teacher training is one of the most effective means of improving English proficiency in the long term.

Ecuador’s Go Teacher scholarship program and the Panama Bilingual Program send hundreds of local teachers to universities in English-speaking countries for language and methodology training every year. The Panama Bilingual Program also funds local training for English teachers, as well as additional English lessons for primary and secondary students.

Ecuador

Proficiency: Low
EF EPI Score: 49,13
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Panama

Proficiency: Very Low
EF EPI Score: 48,08
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Colombia

Proficiency: Very Low
EF EPI Score: 48,41
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URUGUAY BEAMS IN TEACHERS FROM ABROAD

In 2009, Uruguay became the first country in the world to give every student and teacher a laptop through Plan Ceibal, delivering more than 400,000 devices in less than two years. Plan Ceibal also connected nearly all schools to the Internet, allowing teachers to leverage the advantages of digital learning products.

Uruguay

Proficiency: Low
EF EPI Score: 51,63
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GENDER GAP

Average scores for both Latin American men and women are below global averages. Women still outpace men, but the gender difference is the smallest of any region.

GENERATION GAP

Scores for all age cohorts in Latin America are below global averages. In Latin America, young adults are further below their cohort's global average than are mid-career professionals, indicating that schools in the region are underperforming in English education. The region's language education initiatives need to help these young adults catch up.

  • Average

CONCLUSION

Overall, English proficiency in Latin America is low, and there is substantial room for improvement. Nearly every country in the region has launched ambitious programs to augment or overhaul English language education. It remains to be seen which strategies and approaches will be most effective, but it is notable that these countries have recognized the need to improve English proficiency. A large cohort of well-trained English speakers in the workforce is key to Latin America’s continued integration into the global market.

READ ABOUT OTHER REGIONS

Europe

Europe’s English proficiency remains far higher than that of other regions, with Northern and Central Europe leading the world.

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Asia

Every country in Asia, no matter how skilled, would benefit economically from higher English proficiency across a broader swath of the workforce.

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Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa has the lowest level of English proficiency in the world, and the overall level of proficiency is improving in only a few countries.

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