Economic gain and English language: Evidence and Equity

Erling, Elizabeth; Gowland, S; Hedges, Claire; Eyres, Ian; Solly, Michael and Rahman, Md. Shajedur (2021). Economic gain and English language: Evidence and Equity. In: 13th Education and Development Forum (UKFIET) Conference, Sep 15-17., Oxford, United Kingdom.



The assumption that English language ability is equated in some way with economic or social development underpins English in Action (EIA), a large DFID-funded English language enhancement project that aims to enable 25 million Bangladeshi adults and school children to improve their English language skills. This presentation explores the relationship between English language proficiency and economic opportunity in Bangladesh by reporting on three studies conducted as part of EIA:

• Employers’ perceptions of the need for English competence in the workplace;
• Salary premiums for English competence indicated in advertised job vacancies and through employment agencies; and
• The relationship between self-assessed English proficiency and personal income amongst employed Bangladeshis.

This synthesis of evidence indicates a positive relationship between English skills and economic benefit. Recognising that access to opportunities through which English language skills translate into socio-economic returns may not be equitably shared, this presentation also attempts to explore the different socio-demographic characteristics have to play in affecting income. Emergent findings suggest that, even when controlling for key socio-economic factors, self-assessed English language proficiency still has a significant association with personal income amongst working Bangladeshis (at least those who volunteered to take part in this research).

On the basis of these findings we will suggest how countries can close learning gaps between social groups of all ages while achieving English learning gains for all.

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