Education experts predict improvement in English-language skills in Saudi Arabia

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Participants gather for the inauguration of Education First’s new head office and EF English Center in Riyadh on Feb. 6, 2020. (AN photo by Fahad Al-Zahrani)

RIYADH: Levels of proficiency in the English language are expected to increase in Saudi Arabia in the coming years, according to Education First. The global education company compiles the EF English Proficiency Index, on which the Kingdom currently ranks 98th out of 100 countries.

“I’m very confident that English proficiency in the Kingdom will rise every year,” said John Bernström, EF’s general manager in Saudi Arabia, at the inauguration of the company’s new head office and EF English Center in Riyadh.

He sees a strong focus on English education from the government and the Ministry of Education, and in universities and high schools, along with a strong desire to improve personal English-language skills, particularly among young people.

“I believe there is a big willingness to learn (English),” he said, adding that the majority of students who enroll with EF are between the ages of 18 and 25.

“We see interest from both genders; slightly more from men but there is still a very nice interest from women too,” said Bernström. More women are traveling abroad to learn English and, he said, “we are very proud that we are able to provide that in a safe and culturally appropriate environment.”

EF plans to expand its presence in other cities across the Kingdom and the new head office is “the first step toward that goal,” added Bernström,

Helen Indelicato, director of English training at the EF English Center, said: “The new EF English Center in Riyadh will provide students with an opportunity to improve their professional skills, through which they will contribute to the modernization and diversification of the Saudi economy.

“We will bring high-quality English-language training to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to provide its global workforce with opportunities to engage with international companies, visitors, training solutions, and myriad other opportunities.”

The center will cater to students age 13 and over with a range of courses covering beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. It will also offer exam-preparation programs for standardized global tests. The teaching staff is entirely comprised of teachers from English-speaking countries.

“Our brand new local school is the stepping stone to the English journey, where our students will be able to grasp the foundations of the language and immerse into different cultures, while still being in the Kingdom,” said Indelicato. “At any point, students can transfer seamlessly to one of our 40 destinations around the world and fully live the language and the culture while maximizing their experience abroad.”

EF’s activities focus on language, academic, cultural-exchange and educational-travel programs. It held the eighth edition of its EF English Proficiency Index Conference in the Kingdom in 2018.

This article was first published in Arab News

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