Countries in which English Language is a Mandatory or an Optional Subject (interactive)

Global English Education Policy

As this map illustrates, there are 142 countries (blue) in the world where English is a mandatory element of the national education policy concerning public education. There are 41 countries (yellow) in which English language is a possible elective subject or is offered in many but not all schools (often as the most popular option to fulfill a ‘foreign language’ requirement). We have been unable to collect complex information on whether and how such regulations may or may not extend to private schools. There are many countries like China, Indonesia, Colombia and Sweden in which English is mandatory in some grades but optional in others. This is indicated in the box that appears when you hover over the country. This box also includes the date of the main policy document or source document of information for this country.

Because this project is most interested in the spread of English usage through public education systems, we excluded countries where English is dominant to such an extent that the role of the public education systems are much more complex (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – what Braj Kachru has famously but problematically labeled the ‘Inner Circle’ distinguishable from the ‘Outer Circle’ and the ‘Expanding Circle,’ Kachru 2005). This should not be taken to suggest that national public education systems in these countries do not play a role or that these countries are monolingual. On the contrary, each of these countries is, like every country in the world, on the spectrum of multilingualism, and schools in these countries, as in every other, are key sights of language politics. Moreover, there is obviously an argument that Quebec should be included, even if Canada as a whole is excluded, and the only officially bilingual province, New Brunswick, would be another special case. Indeed, we did collect data on Quebec separately, but with the dominance of English in North America, it begs the question whether such macro-level data is appropriate. Similarly, the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq should ideally have its own entry (see note on Iraq) but to move below the 'nation-state' level of official policy analysis would, in our judgement, introduce more questions and possible misrepresentation of the accuracy of the data. Moreover, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, like the rest of Iraq, English is a mandatory subject from grades 1-12. So we have opted to be clear about the limitations of the current data and remain solely at the macro-level of state policy.

You can filter this map by clicking on the legend. We have also included a filter based on countries that were former British colonies and those which were not since the history of the dominance of English is often traced back to this imperial legacy. We would not want this filter to be used to reduce the complex arguments about the role of British colonialism in the advent of global English, but it does make clear the prevalence of mandatory English in countries that are not former colonies.

Viewers should also be aware of the unfortunate visual impact of the Mercator Projection of the world map as well at the mapping project’s dependence on territory when questions of population are more significant to most issues concerning global English. We have tried to address this to some extent in the following sections on population.

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