By Alexander Villafania, loQal.ph
For Yahoo! Southeast Asia
MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA — Despite a recent report that excluded the Philippines among countries with high English proficiency, the country remains competitive as evidenced by the outsourcing industry.
Of the Asian countries that were included in the report Malaysia had the highest English proficiency index (EPI) of 55.54, a "high proficiency" level, and is ranked 9th.
Despite an industry that offers English-based outsourcing services, the Philippines was not included in the ranking. Already, the ranking report has received some criticism especially among Filipinos.
But the absence of the Philippines does not mean that the country is faring lower than Kazakhstan, which ranked 44th with a "very low" English proficiency EPI of 31.75.
An email reply from Eric Feng, an executive from EF's Hong Kong office,
explained that there was insufficient data to render a ranking for the Philippines.
This data is the number of EF test takers per country from 2007 to 2009 and the minimum limit to be part of the ranking is 400 test takers. In addition, countries with less than 100 test takers per two or more tests offered by EF per country were excluded.
Simply put, there were only a few Filipinos that took EF's exams. Consider also that EF does not have an office in the Philippines, thus it is more difficult for the company to provide testing and acquire data.
Feng also said that he cannot speak about the possibility of including the Philippines in their future rankings. "But I should have a clearer idea 3 to 4 months from now."
This methodology was also disclosed in their full report, which also stated that there were 2,368,730 test takers that were included in the ranking.
But even without an English proficiency ranking for the Philippines, the country still enjoys a good English speaking population, as represented by half a million English-proficient employees of the US$8.9 billion business process outsourcing industry.
John Langford, executive vice president for the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP), said the Philippines still has a competitive edge in English proficiency primarily due to its affinity with Western cultures.
In fact, Filipinos consume a lot of foreign films and TV in English, which are rarely dubbed or given subtitles. School textbooks and medium of instruction are also mostly in English except for Filipino-related subjects.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that English proficiency is constantly good among Filipinos. As Langford said, the proficiency itself is declining relative to the growth of the BPO industry demands.
The hiring rate is still rather low at this point, even as demand for outsourced services outstrips supply of manpower. Previously, the BPAP executives said hiring rate is still around two out of 100 interviewees.
"We need to continue to partner with the government and academe to raise the level of English proficiency of the Filipinos in order to sustain the future growth of the industry in the Philippines," Langford said.
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