KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia came out tops for English proficiency among Asian countries where English is not the mother tongue.
In the Education First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) 2011 report released on March 30, Malaysia overtook Hong Kong (at second place), South Korea (third place) and Japan (fourth place).
Malaysia is the only Asian country rated as "high proficiency" for the English proficiency level in the report. All the countries were rated at five different levels -- very high proficiency, high proficiency, moderate proficiency, low proficiency and very low proficiency.
Malaysia is also ranked ninth place globally.
Education First, a global education centre, conducted online English tests on 2.3 million working adults globally from year 2007 to 2009. English proficiency was tested in four categories -- grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening.
The EP EPI measures the average English proficiency of an entire country and compares English skill levels between countries. It was the first index of its kind to give countries a standardised measure of English competency in adults.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong was happy with the results but said there was still room for improvement.
"Although we topped other Asian countries, we are still in the ninth place globally.
"I believed with the ministry increasing the period for English language in schools, it will help our students to improve their command in English," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
Asked whether the ranking will bring back the teaching of Mathematics and Science in English (PPSMI), he said the ministry would look into the possibility.
On Monday, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had said that PPSMI should be allowed to continue especially in selected urban schools where adequate qualified teachers were available.
He added that teaching both subjects in English was crucial if the country wishes to move towards a developed nation status.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said that the government would study the possibility of using two mediums of instruction in the teaching of Science and Mathematics in schools.
Last July, the Cabinet decided the medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science would revert to Bahasa Malaysia in national schools and mother-tongue languages in national-type schools from next year onwards.