Argentina has long been known as the number-one country in Latin America for English proficiency, and continues to hold that position.
The country is sitting comfortably at rank 19 on the EF English Proficiency Index, the highest rank for any Nearshore country – in contrast, the next highest Latin American nation is Uruguay at rank 36.
Education plays a vital role in this, as the 2006 Education Act extended English as a mandatory subject in secondary school. This has been the main accomplishment in the country’s rise to being the English-speaking crown of the region.
Since 2007, English has been taught compulsorily from 4th form (nine-year olds) both in private and public schools. In several Argentine provinces, a few new primary and secondary education curricula for English were passed in 2007, and since then other provinces have followed.
Rosario and La Plata are the cities with the strongest English levels, with Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, and Cordova not far behind.
With most teachers having completed four- to five-year undergraduate programs, they are generally highly qualified, but the availability of teachers is not high enough to fill the positions brought about by language education policies and curricular developments since 2006.
As a consequence, schools are hiring unprepared and/or un-certified teachers to satisfy the demand. This is coupled with low salaries and the low reputation associated with being a school teacher in the country.
There is also no statistical information concerning the English teacher workforce in the country, according to the English department of the Ministry of Education.
While the country faces other challenges too — such as a low performance of Argentinean students in standardized international testing, and high dropout rates in secondary schooling — the nation is still able to hold its top spot comfortably.
Comparing Against Mexico
“Although you can expect a higher English proficiency for Argentina in comparison to Mexico, we noticed a small difference in the 45,000 applicants we received last year,” said Ignacio De Marco, CEO of BairesDev.
“In our evaluations, Argentinians had an average English score of 69%, versus 66% for Mexicans. As a reference, Germans scored 82%. Even so, we understand that, for many companies, employing English-speaking talent is not always easy. We believe the key is to extend the candidates’ reach as much as possible.”
De Marco pointed out that Latin America is in a perfect geographic location to conduct business with countries such as the US or Canada, so it’s natural to expect governments to try to take advantage of this and come up with plans, incentives, and subsidies to increase the English talent pool.
“However,” he said, “as a software outsourcing company with operations in several countries across the region, we normally see governments going in the right direction, but slower than what’s ideal. The overall evolution is quite positive though, and a larger number of people have access to quality English and IT education in contrast to what it was five or ten years ago.”
Evidently, the cloud of Argentina’s financial and economic crisis had a silver lining, as many Argentinians — in a bid to align with more stable international economies — developed a strong English language ability out of a necessity to connect with global markets.
Today, that bedrock, coupled with the accomplishments gained from mandatory English education, has worked in Argentina’s favor as the top Latin American destination for English talent.
In the next Nearshore English Evolution on Monday 26th June, we’ll be checking in with Colombia. Read about other countries in this series by clicking on the links below: