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EDUCATION

Revealed: Spanish ranked second-worst in EU for ability to speak English

A new ranking suggests the Spanish are making very little progress when it comes to mastering English with Spain ranked second worst in the EU... even below the notoriously-bad-at-English French.

Revealed: Spanish ranked second-worst in EU for ability to speak English
Photo:dragonimages/Depositphotos

The Spanish may have come a long way from the stereotype waiter epitomised by Manuel in Fawlty Towers but a new international ranking confirms their place near the wrong end of the rankings.

The English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) ranked the Netherlands top out of 100 countries which don't have English as a national language, based on test results taken by natives in each country.

Down in 35th place came Spain placed in the “moderate competency” group of countries and behind all other countries in the European Union bar one.

The only good news is that Spain beat Italy for its English language competency, but only just. Spain was awarded 55.46 while Italy was just behind at 55.31.

In Europe as a whole, those performing worse were Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The report also gave a breakdown of the level of English across the regions in Spain and the Basques came out on top as the only region in Spain to actually score a “high proficiency” level.

The Basque Country was followed by Madrid, Navarre, Galicia and Catalonia.

Spain’s western region of Extremadura recorded the weakest proficiency with just 52.29 but surprisingly for regions so reliant on tourism, the Balearic Islands, Murcia and the Canary Islands also ranked low.

In terms of cities though, Barcelona beat Madrid into the “high proficiency” category with a score of 57.97 while Madrid was renegaded to the “moderate proficiency” group with 57.35.

However, the report does highlight that Spaniards have in fact improved their English.

They may not be rising in the rankings but in the first study of its kind back in 2011, Spain earned a ranking of “low proficiency” and an EF EPI score of 49.1

READ ALSO: Nine sure-fire ways for Spaniards to improve their English skills

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EDUCATION

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said. 

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