China is losing ground to other emerging markets including Brazil in the drive to learn English, according to a study ranking worldwide proficiency in the international language of commerce.
English proficiency is at a premium as the balance of power between China and English-speaking countries such as the UK and US shifts and Beijing seeks to carve out a more powerful leadership role on the world stage.
Despite this, some regional governments in China have recently opted to cut the time spent teaching and testing English in Chinese public high schools, lowering the weighting of English in the national university entrance exam, the gaokao.
The study, due for public release on Tuesday, shows China fell 10 places to 47th in a ranking of 70 countries compiled by EF Education First, which based its rankings on test data from more than 900,000 adults sitting online tests.
将在11月3日公布的调查结果显示，中国在上述排行榜中的名次下降了10位，降至70个国家中的第47名。排行榜是由英孚教育（EF Education First）编制的，以90多万名成人在线考试的成绩为基础。
EF said most of the countries that moved ahead of China this year were from Latin America. "These Latin American countries have kicked off ambitious national initiatives focused on English-language training, including Brazil's English Without Borders programme and Mexico's Project 100,000," EF said in a statement.
英孚表示，今年名次超越中国的大多是拉美国家。该机构发表声明称：“这些拉美国家启动了雄心勃勃的聚焦英语培训的全国性计划，包括巴西的‘英语无国界’（English Without Borders）计划以及墨西哥的‘Project 100000’。
"The Chinese government, on the other hand, has questioned how much emphasis should be placed on English training in the public education system."
The education group said China had initially scaled the top ranks by devoting plenty of class time to English instruction, whereas continued improvement would require "more sophisticated approaches focused on communicative mastery rather than testing abilities".
But some would-be students are also querying the value of studying overseas, hitherto a popular choice. Employees bearing postgraduate degrees from overseas command similar salaries to their peers who stayed home, according to Jennifer Feng, chief human resources expert at 51job, the leading Chinese employment agency.
That may explain the slowdown in growth of the number of Chinese enrolled in US higher education. Last year, the expansion in their numbers was the slowest in seven years, according to the Institute of International Education and the US state department. China remains the biggest country of origin for international students at US universities.
这或许解释了为什么报名在美接受高等教育的中国学生人数增长放缓。国际教育研究所（Institute of International Education）和美国国务院的数据显示，去年是7年来上述数字增长最慢的一年。目前在美国的大学，中国学生在国际学生中仍是占比最高的。
The US Council of Graduate Schools said late last year that the number of Chinese first-time enrolments at postgraduate level had fallen for the first time in at least a decade.
美国研究生院委员会（US Council of Graduate Schools）表示，去年，首次报名在美接受研究生教育的中国学生人数出现下滑，这是至少10年来的头一次。