Shanghai has pipped Hong Kong in English-language proficiency again, after logging a big improvement over the past five years, according to a new report.
In another standout result from the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI) for 2016, Singapore became the first Asian country to crack the highest proficiency band for English, placing 6th overall in the index. English is the first language in the city-state, which operates a bilingual language policy in state schools.
The EPI, compiled by education company EF Education First, was based on the results of 950,000 adults who took an online English test administered by EF. A total of 72 countries and territories were ranked in this year's edition of the index, which was revealed exclusively to CNBC.
While China was ranked 39th out of 72 countries, compared to Hong Kong's 30th place in the worldwide rankings, the Chinese financial capital Shanghai logged better test scores than Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China and regional financial hub.
Shanghai recorded an EPI score of 55.54, compared to Hong Kong's score of 54.29 in 2016. However, China's capital, Beijing, came in slightly lower than Hong Kong, with a score of 53.49.
In terms of improvement in EPI scores, Shanghai experienced a 5-year score change of 4.35, compared to Hong Kong's 0.64 improvement. Shanghai's scale of improvement was similar to Singapore's, with the latter clocking a 5-year score improvement of 4.87.
Shanghai has previously bested Hong Kong in English proficiency only once before, in 2014.
Minh Tran, senior director of research and academic partnerships at EF, said Shanghai's improvement was due to the growing importance of English in China in response to an increasingly internationalized business and employment world.
"Chinese companies, such as Alibaba and Huawei, that are looking to operate abroad or attract foreign capital are expecting higher English proficiency levels from their applicants," Tran explained.