Muslims along with Hindus have the lowest number of years of formal schooling. At 5.6 years, it is way below the global average of 7.7 years spent in schools.
This research on the major religions and the number of years of education was conducted by the Pew Research Center and the report was released on 13 December. The study used census and survey data from 151 countries and is the first comprehensive examination of differences in educational levels by religion.
The study found that Jews have the highest number of years of formal education schooling at 13.4 years. This was significantly higher than for any other religion. Christians only have 9.3 years, those unaffiliated with any religion have 8.8 years and Buddhists have 7.9 years. Hindus and Muslims are lagging behind other religions with only 5.6 years of formal education.
These numbers are affected by many other factors other than religion, such as the socioeconomic conditions, government resources, migration policies, the presence of armed conflicts, prevalence of child labor and early marriages.
The geographical element to this date, for example reflects where these people are living, since the majority of Jews are living in the United States or in Israel – two developed countries, they would be expected to have higher years of schooling. Similarly, low levels of educational attainment of Hindus, is related to their geographical location, that is they are located almost 98 percent in South Asia, in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, which are developing countries.
However, there are often large variations within countries. Religious minorities often have more education, than the country’s majority religious group. This is particularly true but is not exclusive to when the minority group is foreign born and comes from a distant country. So Hindus living in the US have 15.7 years of education, which is significantly higher than the average. In this case, the factor is because immigration policies are skewed towards favoring highly skilled applicants.
Muslims, living as minorities, have generally better education than the majorities in those countries. One exceptional case, is that of India, where the Muslims (14 percent of population) have lower levels of education than the Hindu majority. In addition, whereas generally the gap between all the religions has been reducing over the generations, India presents the unusual situation, in which the gap between Muslims and Hindus has increased over the last 3 generations.
Among those in the oldest generation, 43% of Hindus and 36% of Muslims have some formal schooling, a gap of 7 percent. But in the latest generation, that gap has grown to 11 percentage points as Hindus (71%) have made more rapid gains than Muslims (60%).
Earlier research by Pew also indicates that India has one of the highest levels of social hostilities involving religion in the world. The educational gap of Muslims versus other groups is the result of the social, economic and legal discrimination and persecution they have faced in the country.