Koreans ranked bottom in English proficiency test

Not so surprising but very frustrating for the stakeholders since Korea has been spending so much money on English education. It’s even more depressing considering that this is a country where test scores seem more important than actual knowledge gained. (Or should it be where perceived knowledge is based on a test score?)

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said private English language education bills increased nearly 12 percent last year, and annually the amount of money spent on English education reached 15 trillion won.
More than 90 percent of elementary school students receive private English education.
Denmark and the Netherlands together took first place with average scores of 102. Austria and Singapore came next with 100, followed by Belgium with 98 and Germany with 97. The Philippines, another Asian country that adopted English as an official language, like Singapore, ranked 32nd, with an average of 88 points.
Source: Koreans Ranked Bottom in English Proficiency Test


  1. I’m sure that’s a very disheartening news. But if they (Koreans) continue on insisting to pronounce “english” as “englishee”, then… need i say more?
    wendys last blog post..Watching Television

  2. i read this one too…..for a country who spends so much on learning english this is absolutely frustrating.i agree when you said koreans seems to value test scores than actual knowledge gained because there are a lot of koreans who get absolutely high scores(and even PERFECT scores)in TOEIC and other english proficiency exams but they still can’t speak the language well.
    chers last blog post..The White House Chef

  3. The blame is shared by the Koreans (students, test takers) themselves as well as the culture, system, and that includes the universities, hagwon owners, parents, and in a lesser degree to the teachers in general (both native and non-native speakers alike). This is a wake up call for them, something needs to be changed, heads should roll.
    Im also not happy about the Philippines ranking at 32nd, considering that we already adopted English as an official language. How can we brag about our country as a country of fluent English speakers and teachers with that rank?

  4. I’m a Filipino and I don’t agree that learning English would be beneficial to an already prosperous country like South Korea. They’ve already proven themselves to the world. This fad of learning English for globalization might just cause a sociocultural gap. I just don’t get the point of promoting English when they have their own versatile language and they were able to succeed with it in the past.

    1. to gelogs: i totally agree with you!as it is Korea is so progressive these days compared to other neighboring Asian countries, they manufacture cars, their modern technology is great etc.

  5. then the more they should hire Filipino teachers. yes, it’s true. they spend much money studying with native speakers and yet their scores are still bad. it’s sad!

  6. Koreans take and retake the TOEFL or TOIEC until they can get the best possible score they can have to show in their resumes. Their focus is on test-taking and not being fluent in communicating. It’s not easy for Koreans to learn English because the structure of their language (Hangul) and the phonetics is very different from English. As shown in the article, China and Japan also rank low and they too have their own language and alphabet. Changes should be made in their educational system that focus on fluency not scores.

  7. ^
    Yes, it’s very different. I believe students should start learning the English alphabet first with the “correct pronunciation” of the “letters”. It helps a lot if they do that. I started learning Hangul by taking the Korean alphabet first instead of relying to romanization. It helps to better pronunciation.

  8. To Gelogs,
    Many Koreans want to get good scores for TOEIC or TOEFL because many of them also want to work abroad like in America or Europe that’s why they need to learn English well. I teach Koreans here in the Philippines. Yes it’s true, Korean companies require their applicants to get good scores because they also somehow have contacts or clients abroad, so the workers must be able to speak with them. It’s for the company too. The issue is spending much without learning. Big waste. It calls for changes for the education policies and hiring teachers.

  9. It’s good that many Filipinos can speak English well, and are learning to speak English because we need it when we travel or work abroad.

  10. “Nose-bleed naman kami sayo!” o “Ang konyo nito!” Malamang halos lahat sa’tin e narinig na ang dalawang ito tuwing mageEnglish tayo ng may tamang punto at bigkas. Hindi lang yon. Pati tuwing meron tayong sasabihing may (konting) lalim at gilas. Nakaklungkot pero nagiging isang malaking hadlang ang ‘nosebleed’ na ito sa pagunlad ng kaisipan ng mga tao, at ang mahuhusay na diwa ay napapalitan, at ang mga wastong salita ay hinahalinhinan na lamang ng salitang “churva”.
    Elliots last blog post..A Switch that could Change the World

  11. Ive always believed that english is a language & not a subject. If Koreans insists on getting technical in their learning process with english, then it may take years for the english language to be natural with them. I always remind my students to take off the hangul mindset when studying english, because in Hangul theres a vowel to every end of a word or a sentence.
    “Please, teachee meeh englishee!” sounds family..hehe..familiar?
    Still, we cant underestimate the Koreans because they have proven to have risen from their struggles. Maybe this will be one of them. Lastly, i believe Filipinos will be among the best ones to teach english to Koreans in their country.

  12. the result would have been probably much lower if based on take-one test of toeic, ielts, and toefl. we’re all aware that they take the these tests many times until they get the desired score or band. anyway, “sooner or later,” koreans will be much better than filipinos – especially in grammar. they’re good at it. when i give them tests they really understand grammar structure by heart. on another note, my elementary and middle school students have more american accents than filipino students. they don’t sound korean except when pronouncing the words like fish-ee college-ee, orange-ee, etc. but filipinos have more substance when they write and speak even with their crooked english. this isn’t only because filipino students have more exposure of the language but because of the english training and being well-rounded of philippine educational system. thanks to the creative filipino english teachers.

  13. Meron din naman sila natutuhan sa puti. Sa tingin mo kong ikaw ung foreign teacher sa tingin mo me matutuhan din ba sayo ung korean student-tsaka its defends on student me student akong smart even in her accent. Sometimes its hard to critizise people.

  14. gelogs im not really sure why also, but maybe theyre avoiding what japan is experiencing. japan didnt really care about learning the english language. they just went bullying around with their economic prowess. but now japan’s economy is shaky & communication with the western world might be one of the key problems(which im not really sure). maybe the korean govt have seen this as a setback. so what theyre doing is to avoid the same dilemma. theyre building foundation on learning the worlds 3rd most spoken language for their citizens. maybe also for the koreans to have an edge against their japanese counterparts. china bydway is hot on english also. i agree korea made it bigtime without the english language but the world is constantly changing. investing on something useful wouldnt hurt. maybe english is something they see as something handy for their future.

  15. So frustrating to know that Singapore is ranked amongst the top yet we are not allowed to teach English.
    Not every single person from those so-called “native-speaking” countries are proficient in the English language. I know that for sure because I have had American classmates before who wrote lousy essays filled with grammatical and spelling errors.

  16. If they can’t follow your rules and their discourteous… terminate them. Tell them, “If you can’t respect me and follow my rules better look for another tutor. I don’t need your money!” I already terminated or decline 3 Koreans.
    Not all Koreans like native speakers… I asked my students talk to few ESL native speakers but they refused after talking to them. They said, “I don’t like him even her even though they are native English speakers. I like you teacher. I don’t like to have sessions with them”!!! (All of my Korean students think the same kkkkk Even though I am not a very good English teacher and until now I am learning/ researching. (Few of my students are studying with me ON LINE until now to finish 3 levels that lasted 1year and 6 months. Kkkkk For exchange students face to face…lasted for 4 to 6 months.)
    Filipinos can also accept $8. Per hour… don’t ask who….
    Filipinos… “You can do it!!!” TO GOD ALL PRAISES AND GLORY!!!!!
    .-= MAESTRA VIAJES- http://www.untvweb.com´s last blog ..What a Lovely English !!! =-.

  17. Ang problema naman kasi sa mga batang Koreans nagdidepend sila sa books at sa guro. Eventhough you teach them how to read and write but still they don’t exert more effort to improve their vocabularies. Nakakainis din minsan dahil kulang sila sa disiplina. Sa totoo lang, kung sa Pinas kayang i-control ng iisang teacher ang 50 students sa isang classroom dito sa Korea 5 or 10 students lang hindi kaya ng teacher pigilan ang ingay at pagmumura ng estudyante sa kapwa bata! GRABE!! However, meron din naman na mga fast learner na mga bata at masunurin.

  18. hey, im planning to visit seoul or work there for a while after i get my degree (n three years) so im currently studying korean. i just wanted to know if they can speak basic english if i get lost and ask them a question or something. anyways, i really love your blogs. ill continue to read it.

  19. There are lots of fine English speakers who can’t teach in Korea, because their country isn’t recognized. The Bahamas is one. Then there’s Bermuda. Also, Jamaica, and tons of other island nations in the West Indies.

  20. hello everyone..
    I am a teacher.Currently, I am teaching English online for Koreans.
    I just felt bad when I saw this video.
    they were comparing Filipino teachers to other native speakers.
    And the worst is, they were laughing about it.
    Do they think it’s funny?
    If you’re concern about our teacher and our country, make a stand.
    I hope they listen to themselves first before they say against others.
    this is the website.

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