Colombia improved its performance in English, but the level is still low

5 min readNov 18, 2021

in terms of English, Colombia’s scores remain poor. This is shown by the English Proficiency Index (EPI) of the firm Education First , which every year undertakes the task of measuring the performance of non-English-speaking nations in this language.

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This year, the analysis included 112 countries — 12 more than last year’s report — and

considered the results of two million adults who took the tests. English course of Education First in 2020.

From this information, a classification of language proficiency is made into the categories of very high, high, moderate, low and very low depending on the score obtained by the nations on a scale whose maximum rating is 800.

In the 2021 edition of the EPI , Colombia obtained 465 points — a slight improvement compared to the 2020 report in which its score was 448. With this score, the country managed to go from the very low domain category in which it was ranked last year to low and ranked 81st out of 112 countries.

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For Giorgio Lemmolo, EF’s director of academic management for Europe, South Africa and Costa Rica, this improvement could be due to the fact that Colombia has made progress in teacher education standards in recent years.

“This is clearly a fundamental factor. In general, I believe that there is a lack of a process of continuous and systematic evaluation of teachers and to ensure that the education standards that exist are met , there is also a lack of measurement of student performance and the total training of teachers. , but the fact of having standards has improved the level of the country, that should give more impetus “.

According to Lemmolo, at the level of language skills, “a person with a very low level can present and say simple information. At the low level we are already talking almost an intermediate between A2 and B1 of the Common European Framework, then you can read, for example, uncomplicated newspaper articles and you can communicate with more vocabulary. “

According to the report, the world average has not changed significantly from last year. However, 16 countries increased a competition band, such as Colombia, while only one fell, and none experienced a significant decrease in score (more than -20 points on an 800-point scale).

The country managed to go from the very low domain category in which it ranked last year to low and ranked 81st out of 112 countries.

The addition of 12 countries that were not listed last year and the high score density in the middle part of the index led to a larger than usual reshuffling of the ranking. For this reason, despite the fact that Colombia ranked 77 in the list in the 2020 report and this year it is 81, it does so with a better score, although it is still among the countries with low dominance and in the last places. among Latin American countries.

In fact, in the region it is the last of the countries in the low level and is only above Ecuador, Mexico and Haiti, whose level of English was very low. In addition, the country is 91 points below Argentina, the best performing Latin nation and the only one in the high domain category, ranked 30th in the world.

According to the report, this year’s results show that almost all Latin American countries have improved their level of English among adults over the last decade and, although progress has not always been spectacular, it has been steady.

Meanwhile, European countries remain at the forefront of measurement. The Netherlands, Austria and Denmark occupy the top three places in the table. In fourth place came Singapore, as the highest ranked Asian country, and the top 10 of the very high level are completed by Norway, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and Croatia.

How are the Colombian cities?

This year, the EPI also provided details on how English is proficient in 10 cities and 22 departments across the country. Atlántico is the only region that achieved a moderate dominance with 503 points, the other departments on the list are divided between the categories of low and very low and only Quindío, Bogotá DC, Antioquia, Bolívar, Risaralda and Cundinamarca obtained a score higher than the average national.

Regarding cities, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla stand out with 506 and 505 points, respectively, and a moderate level, an improvement compared to last year’s analysis, in which none of the Colombian cities managed to enter this category. Medellín, Bogotá, Cartagena, Pereira and Cali follow the list at the low level and Neiva, Cúcuta and Tuluá are at the very low level.

It must continue to improve

The report places special emphasis on the link that has been identified between proficiency in English and the progress of countries on issues such as competitiveness, equity, freedom and economic development. That is why it is an issue in which Colombia must continue to improve.

“ English increases economic competitiveness. It is the most common language for exchanging information across borders, making it a key component for accessing knowledge and experience.Although in Colombia we present an improvement, we must continue working to increase our proficiency in English. The report offers valuable recommendations for policy makers to assess and strengthen language learning capacity in their organizations and governments, ”said Catalina Arteaga, country manager at EF Education First Colombia.

Among the recommendations that they include for governments and educational authorities are aspects such as using a broad-based evaluation for both teachers and students in order to have a reference point at the beginning and monitor progress over time, establish a minimum required level. to teach English, examine instructors regularly and train those who do not reach the level.

Age is no excuse

Education First’s analysis also shows that since 2015, adults in their 30s have improved their English three times more than those between 21 and 25 years old, and this year, the global average of adults over 40 years old places them for the first time. in the moderate domain band.

These trends run counter to the idea that there is a golden age of youth for language learning , after which it is impossible to progress. For the firm, when adults are motivated by social and economic gains, and are regularly exposed to English in a variety of practical situations, their skills can also improve.





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